What March Madness Means for Your Biz's Productivity

Whether you follow sports or not, this is still good to be aware of: People go crazy for the single-elimination Division I college basketball tournaments performed every spring in the United States.  What I can’t tell you is why people are so obsessed with it, since I don’t really care about it. But lots of people do — probably some of your employees. Or most of them.

Global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. has started circulating the results of its study looking into how this impacts productivity at offices, since people organize office pools, research teams, plan viewing parties and the general enthused obsession sports fans tend to get about these things.

According to the study, there will be $134 billion in “lost wages,” which will not even “register as a blip in the overall economy.” So it may not be cause to worry after all — the study says that the sequester will have a more pronounced effect than this.

Nevertheless, some respondents to the survey admitted they’d be taking time off work (at least seven percent) or that they’ve called in sick in years past to watch the games at home (twelve percent). But this is a bit like Y2K — you can worry and fuss but it won’t really change much and is pretty much a non-issue anyway.

In its study, Challenger explains why it’s not a big deal in the end:

“The reason none of this will show up in a company’s bottom line is that we live in an era where productivity cannot really be measured by the traditional widgets-produced-per-hour formula. Today’s workers – particularly those with full-time internet access needed to follow March Madness – don’t produce widgets. They produce reports, memos, and ideas. They manage long-term projects and work in teams.”

In the end, this just confirms something we all know anyway: People will just do more work on both sides of watching and it’ll all even out.  

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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