Hoops and the Harm?

Why bother working when you can watch the NCAA Tournament? (Photo Courtesy: Getty Images)

Forget Thanksgiving, Christmas or Super Bowl Sunday. The best day of the year (in my opinion) is the first day of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament.

The buzz of being in a newsroom that day is pretty special. All games are on, and despite trying to be unbiased journalists, everyone is cheering for their alma mater or at least rooting for their bracket not to blow up. It feels a lot like a sports bar minus the half yards and nachos.

Or sometimes when you work in sports TV, your days off just might fall on Thursday-Friday! Which means you can saddle up at the real sports bar starting at noon and try to pace yourself on beer so you can still read your bracket by the time the night session starts.

Some employers probably wish you would take the first few days of the tournament off. Consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. estimates the expanded 68-team tournament could result in a loss of $192 million dollars of workplace productivity.

The firm’s report is based on the expectation that over eight million hours of online viewership will occur during work hours. And CBS Sports is adding free mobile apps this year which could increase streaming by 20 percent.

A big distraction for sure, but Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John A. Challenger puts it into perspective.

“Basically, there is no measurable impact on the economy or even an individual company’s bottom line,” Challenger says. “However, if you ask department managers or IT staff whether March Madness has a noticeable effect on productivity, they are likely to answer in the affirmative. The situation is comparable to a traffic accident, which does not have any measurable impact on the overall economy, but if you happen to be stuck in the resulting congestion and arrive late to work because of it, it has an immediate and noticeable impact on your day’s productivity.”

Filling out brackets and watching games has become part of our culture, much like Super Bowl parties have. So why fight it?

“Rather than try to squash employee interest in March Madness, companies could try to embrace it as a way to build morale and camaraderie, Challenger says. “This could mean putting televisions in the break room, so employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet.”

Or just get a job in sports tv, where you are expected to watch the games at your desk. Enjoy the madness!

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