March Madness and Productivity

Every March the ultimate college basketball tournament to decide the national champions takes place. March Madness is the phrase used to describe the tournament, and there is good reason.

Fans go crazy over the whole event. Brackets, office pools, and game watching during work hours are common events.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. did some data analyzing and estimated that total online viewership during work hours is likely to reach at least 8.4 million hours during this year’s tournament, which begins with special qualifying games on Tuesday, March 15. While 8.4 million hours sounds like a lot of hours, it is a relatively small drop in the bucket compared to the total nation’s estimated logged hours for that time period of over 11 billion hours.

Of course there are other productivity losses that cannot be measured directly by the number of hours lost. had over 11.7 million total hours of live streaming video and audio consumed in 2010, much of which was during regular working hours. That has effects on company bandwidth, which costs are very hard to measure.

A basketball survey conducted by TNS Global revealed:

  • The number 1 place to check sports scores was at work. The toilet was the second favorite place to check. Other popular places to check included while driving, during an argument with a significant other, and while the boss was talking.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 Americans report they are online while watching basketball on TV, watching up to 3 hours of sports games or highlights a day
  • The most common activity while watching games online is chatting

With so many sports fans in the workforce, it would be very challenging to lock down on productivity loses, especially with the proliferation of technology and the increasing ease of connectivity. I think Challenger suggested it right in their report:

“Rather than try to squash employee interest in March Madness, companies could try to embrace it as a way to build morale and camaraderie.  This could mean putting televisions in the break room, so employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet.  Employers might consider organizing a company-wide pool, which should have no entry fee in order to avoid ethical and/or legal questions.”

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