March Madness is upon us.
The second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament starts today. That has typically meant lunch breaks get longer, the amount of sick time used goes up and general productivity in the workplace decreases.
According to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, an executive outplacement firm from Chicago, it is estimated more than 60 million Americans will fill out a tournament bracket. Most of them will take time out of their workday to fill it out and do research to make decisions.
This is before the tournament actually starts.
The firm said even more productivity is lost during the first two full days of tournament play – Thursday and Friday – when several games are played during the traditional work day.
There is a cost in terms of lost wages paid to distracted and unproductive workers, and, this year, the cost could reach as high as $1.9 billion, according to calculations by global outplacement firm.
Despite the staggering number of lost wages, the firm doesn’t think business owners should ban office pools or employees streaming the games while at their desk.
“If anything, employers should embrace March Madness and seek ways to use it as a tool to boost employee morale and engagement,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of the firm said in a news release. “For example, creating a company-wide office pool that is free to enter and offers a free lunch or gift card for the winner could help build camaraderie and encourage interaction among co-workers who may not typically cross paths.”
In Southern Illinois, a couple of business owners said they are more likely to welcome March Madness, rather than shy away from the event.
Susan Schmitt, owner and operators of S&B’s Burger Joint at University Mall in Carbondale, doesn’t think there is any loss of productivity at her restaurant.
“It is more of a good thing because we get more people in the door,” she said.
She said the tournament allows customers to hang out and most are enthusiastic because it is a sport where people can relate.
The tournament also gives an opportunity for a server or bartender to start a dialogue with the customer and make them feel more at home during their visit to the establishment.
“It is a good conversation starter,” Schmitt said.
Tom Harness, owner of Harness TechED, said he is going to stream the games on a big television in the office, saying he would rather have it in one spot, instead of multiple devices streaming the tournament.
He doesn’t see the tournament as a distraction, rather a way to bring his employees together.
“My business culture is to embrace certain distractions, like the NCAA tournament, and find a way to use them to motivate and encourage the work environment,” Harness said. “Customers absolutely come first, but I believe you can have a balance at the office.”