March 19,2014. March Madness is here, when basketball becomes an obsession for many otherwise focused professionals. It can mean interrupted conversations at the dinner table, and ignored chores around the house. But what does this mean for the workplace? This has been studied, of course. The firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas has put values to the lost productivity at work, based on a 2009 Microsoft survey. Particularly in Week 1 of March Madness, when many take time to pick brackets, productivity at work can noticeably drop off. The firm estimates that if each employee spends one hour filling out the brackets at work, the total cost to American companies would be $1.2 billion in the first week of the tournament. In addition, internet speeds at the office may slow while employees stream games, view article here. Approximately 3 million workers will spend at least an hour at work watching games. Two-thirds of U.S. workers will use work hours to stay abreast of the tournament as it progresses, view article here.
However, March Madness at the office is not a total loss to employers. Employee brackets can boost morale, bond co-workers, and create a “team environment” that mimics the teams we are rooting for. Part of this is the recognition that more work is expected out of employees “after hours” than in previous years, as employees stay connected by e-mail with 24-hour access. CBS introduced the “Boss Button” several years ago, so that an Excel Spreadsheet pops up on their computer at the press of a button to hide live-streaming game-watch. Although some employees are surreptitiously watching games live while on the clock, many discuss the game results at work. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Many employers view office pools and discussions around the coffee pot as team-building. These discussions can have a net effect of boosting morale and improving productivity in the long-run, as employees build bonds at work.