Let the Madness begin

March 19, 2008
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madnessThe Madness this March is going to be a little crazier than usual. Due to advances in high-speed wireless technology, more people than ever will spend time at work paying attention to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year. According to Challenger Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement consulting firm, U.S. companies will absorb $1.7 billion in lost worker productivity as a result.

That’s a dramatic increase from the $765.7 million in lost worker productivity due to March Madness in 2004. Challenger Gray officials blame the increase in productivity loss on improved technology which allows more fans to track the tournament through the Internet. This year, for instance, more fans than ever will be able to watch high-speed video of the tournament. Just last year, Challenger estimated the productivity loss at $1.2 billion.

“This could be a milestone year when the tournament’s early rounds go from a shared screw-off venture—people crowded into bars and huddled into break rooms—to a solo one with everyone quiet in their cubicles,” said Yahoo! Sports reporter Dan Wetzel.

Some of the Web sites that allow fans to watch live video feeds of tournament games even have a “boss button” which allows work-place scofflaws—with a single key stroke—to dump the screen when their supervisor walks by.

While the Super Bowl, World Series and Indianapolis 500 are bigger sporting events in different ways, nothing quite unites the entire nation like the specter of the NCAA hoops tournament, sports marketers said. This year the tournament includes teams from schools large and small from 30 different states and  the District of Columbia.

Are workers wrong to watch basketball games, check up on scores or fill out a tournament bracket on company time? Or is a little down time each March within an otherwise hard worker’s right?
  • It should be pointed out that the loss is figured as though no one wastes any time at all during all other times of the year. I think it's an interesting study, but maybe slightly flawed. It certainly shows the time at work spent messing with the NCAA tournament is on the rise, and from what I can see at my work place, that's pretty right on. But all in all, it's probably pretty harmless and might even be a boost to morale. By the way, I bet on UCLA to win the whole thing.
  • I like basketball, but this idea that it's ok, even good sport, to cork off at work for hours at a time is the reason foreign imports are knocking U.S. makes all to heck. Having a boss button on these Web channels is way over the top.
  • There are several studies out that show it is more efficient for employers to allow their employees personal internet use at work than to prohibit it. If they buy something on the internet, they might not disappear shopping for half an hour or an hour. If they bank on the internet, they don't need to leave work to go to the bank. With the tournament on the internet, your employees are at least showing up to work rather than calling in sick or disappearing for a three hour lunch. I'm there to be accessible to my clients. Am I as productive as a non-tournament day?? Probably not. Am I more of a benefit to my employer because I actually am in the office? Yes, I am. I guess the answer here depends on what kind of work you do and how easily distracted you are. I'm not going to watch streaming videos of the games at work, but some people will. Keeping the scoreboard on an open window that I can access throughout my day curbs my curiousity and keeps me from ditching to watch games. It's portions of 4 workdays throughout the year. Let's face it, the employers are doing the same thing. The tourney isn't just for the lower-level workers.
  • I think these studies need further study. But as a small business owner, I know the problem is real!!!

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