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March Madness costs employers billions in lost productivity

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — If you are a NCAA college basketball fan, the next three weeks may be like Christmas for you. With opening games Thursday and Friday of this week and brackets to be filled out and live streams to be set up this may be the time of the basketball season you look forward to the most.

But while you bask in basketball heaven, your employers may not be sharing in your March Madness joys due to lost work productivity from you watching the games and updating your brackets.

Estimates vary on how Americans participate in March Madness pools each year. The American Gaming Association says about 40 million people will fill out more than 70 million NCAA Tournament brackets, with an average wager of $29 per bracket.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a job placement center out of Chicago, Illinois,  estimates about 51 million officer workers join office pools during March Madness. Based on the country’s average hourly wage of $25.35, the outplacement consultancy firm estimates employers will lose $1.3 billion in pay to slacking employees per hour of distraction. Between time spent filling out brackets and watching tournament games live, the total loss of productivity could approach $4 billion dollars.

“Let’s conservatively assume that workers will spend at least one hour putting together their office pool brackets, and then at least two more hours streaming games during the workday on Thursday and Friday,” Andrew M. Challenger, vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., said in a press release. “That’s about $3.9 billion in lost wages paid to unproductive workers in the first week of the Tournament.”

Employers are also blaming the easy access to streaming games on laptops and other mobile devices as another reason for lost productivity. According to the NCAA and its partner’s websites that grant access to live feeds, almost 80 million video streams and almost 18 million hours of video consumption happened last year during March Madness.

While employers may not like the lost productivity, most bosses agree that it is better to let workers indulge in watching the games instead of hindering or stopping their efforts.