March Madness has begun. Employers: Do you know where your employees are? Or at least where their minds are? Chances are they are on Harvard vs. Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky vs. Kentucky, or any one of the 17 games that kick off the annual NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship tournament.
From filling out brackets and entering office pools to streaming games online, the near-month long tournament can really do a number on office productivity. Chicago outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.’s annual “study” finds that 2.5 million workers will spend 90 minutes a day watching the tournament. The result: Millions of hours in diminished or lost productivity. With private sector workers earning an average of $23.29 per hour, Challenger estimates that employers will end up paying their distracted workers about $175 million over the first two full days of the tournament. Nice work if you can get it.
This figure, CEO John A. Challenger admits, is to be taken with a grain of salt. It is more meant to illustrate “how technology continues to blur the line between professional and personal lives,” he said in a statement. “Ultimately, March Madness will not even register a blip on the nation’s economic radar and even the smallest company will survive the month without any impact on their bottom line.
“This is not to say there is absolutely no impact. However, it is felt at the micro level. The company’s internet speeds may be slower, some workers will not respond to emails as promptly, and lunch breaks may extend beyond the usual time limits. It’s mostly a headache-inducing annoyance for information technology departments, human resources and department managers.”
And it’s not just offices. March Madness is felt at schools, too. An Omaha fifth grader was sent to the principal’s office for running his own tournament pool at his elementary school, MSN reports.
How should employers react? Should they mount a full court press and keep their employees’ noses to the grindstone, or embrace the Madness. "If you can’t beat them, you might as well join them,” Challenger said. “It’s a way of bringing people together. Everybody does it. It's really harmless."
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.