Every year around this time, an illness sweeps across the land. It infects millions and will touch the lives of billions. Yup, it’s March Madness.
Thursday, March 19 marks the official beginning of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. However, the craziness truly began Monday, March 16. That’s the day after “Selection Sunday” when bracket mania first set in. And if you’re an employer, you may have noticed Internet usage skyrocket and productivity plummet.
It’s estimated that over 60 million Americans filled out brackets this year (hopefully they didn’t pick a 16 seed to upset – it’s never happened). And that’s without Warren Buffett offering a billion dollar reward for a perfect bracket (that’s ok, your odds of picking every match correctly are over 9-quintillion-to-1).
However, it’s where those brackets were filled out that’s a concern for employers.
According to the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Americans spend an extravagant amount of time at work researching team placement in brackets and then streaming day games online. They estimate a potential $1.9 billion in wages may be lost due to distracted and unproductive workers over the tournament.
That figure could be seen as terrifying, but is it really that bad?
“It’s business as usual for us this time of year,” said Kasey Moran, CEO of TRAC Staffing. “We’ve never noticed a drop off in people accepting jobs or an increase in people telling us that they can’t work during the tournament – and some of the jobs we staff include weekend hours when the biggest games are on. But that’s the interesting thing about working as a temp, you really get to choose your hours. So, when someone takes a job it’s because they’re ready to work, not sit around and watch TV.”
It turns out the workers hired from Moran’s staffing company are not alone. Even though employees can find more ways to be distracted this time of year, that may not mean they’re less productive.
According to a recent report in the Harvard Business Review, the tournament does have “a profound and widespread impact on patterns of work.” However, a change in work habits doesn’t necessarily mean there’s less work being done.
“Common sense suggests that those who follow successful teams will come to anticipate success and simply learn to budget their time, making sure to leave enough time to watch their team play. For those who expect their team to lose, the opposite occurs: they can plan to work after their cherished team goes down in defeat,” the report states.
The report indicates that the NCAA Tournament may even boost employee morale through increased interaction and camaraderie. Ultimately, both employee and employer must decide where the line stands between gross neglect and casual distraction.
Even Moran admits she’s not immune to the Madness. “I love this time of year. Sure, I’ll fill out a bracket. I just won’t be at the office when I do it.”