The solar eclipse could cost employers big bucks

Monday won't be business as usual for employers, thanks to a very cosmic event. 

The first solar eclipse visible in the U.S. since 1979 will take place in the middle of the workday, which may cost employers as much as $694 million in lost productivity, according to global outplacement and coaching firm Challenger, Grey & Christmas, which analyzed wage and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

States and cities in the path of the eclipse, which stretches from Oregon to South Carolina, could suffer productivity losses of almost $200 million. Experts are warning businesses to expect increased absenteeism as millions of people are projected to travel to see the eclipse or take a break from work, which will cause productivity to plummet.

Even companies located in areas with a partial eclipse may have a "manic Monday." Challenger, Grey estimates that the eclipse will cost the Chicago area $28 million, for example. Experts are encouraging employers to make the best of the situation by holding viewing parties and other team-building activities. 

"A loss of productivity does not necessarily mean that good things cannot come out of this eclipse," said Andrew Challenger, vice president at Challenger, Grey in a statement. "By considering how this event may impact employee morale, companies can turn this potential monetary loss to a gain when it comes to employee satisfaction."

The drop-off in employee productivity will be offset by sales of eclipse-themed merchandise and from spending by eclipse "chasers," who are traveling to see the phenomenon.

Demand for eclipse-themed swag such commemorative viewing glasses, t-shirts, and posters, is reportedly brisk. More adventurous types can partake in eclipse wines, pizzas, and s'mores kits with marijuana-infused chocolate. Big companies also are getting in on the fun.

Krispy Kreme is offering a chocolate version of its signature glazed donuts. Chiquita has a wacky "banana-themed" eclipse video online. Mattress company Casper is taking over a campground in -- where else -- Casper, Wyoming, where 80 guests will sleep in "Safari-style" canvas tents outfitted with Casper mattresses, sheets, and pillows.

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.