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It’s here! The annual discussion about how much productivity is lost in the workplace during the NCAA’s men’s college basketball national championship. Here is a good sample of why you should suddenly look upon your employees with distrust and anger.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“In its annual poll, the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. estimates that the almost monthlong tournament will cost American companies $134 million in ‘lost wages’ as an estimated 3 million workers spend between one to three hours watching hoops.

Employers: Brace yourself for slower Internet speeds as online streaming is expected to zap networks’ bandwidth, the firm warns.

‘March Madness will definitely have an impact on the flow of work, particularly during the first week of the tournament,’ John A. Challenger, chief executive at the firm, said in a statement. ‘Starting the day after selection Sunday, people will be organizing office pools, researching teams and planning viewing parties.’

The survey also found that 7% of those polled said they plan to take time off work to watch the tournament.”

Quick! Breakout the emergency truancy plan incase 7% of your staff takes two days off this week.

Okay, so maybe it is a bit overblown. A quick Internet search only comes up with the same information from the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Hats-off to them for getting a little press with a timely poll of their clients and contacts.

In reality we can all probably calm down about assembly lines nationwide slowing because of 20 year olds playing basketball in between Nike, Chevy and Aflac commercials for the next month.

Forbes has a few details:

“Modis, an IT recruiting and staffing company, recently looked into how offices handle employee March Madness consumption.  A national telephone survey (conducted by Braun Research on behalf of Modis) of five-hundred IT professionals found that one-third of office IT departments are preparing to block, ban or slow down streamed March Madness content through the throttling of video feeds. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of those surveyed believe that content policies will only get stricter over the next two years.  Only four percent believe that said policies will become more relaxed with time.

But the panic over a potential reduction of productivity during the NCAA Tournament may be grossly inappropriate.  While IT professionals are busy figuring out how to inhibit employees from tracking the success or failure of their favorite basketball teams, a new report by staffing service OfficeTeam, makes it seem as though the March Madness productivity problem is overstated.

The OfficeTeam report is based on responses from over one-thousand senior executives at mid-to-large sized companies, along with replies from more than four-hundred workers employed in office environments.  It found that only one-in-five employees are distracted at work by the inherent excitement that forms from watching major sports competitions.  Further, eleven percent (11%) of the executives polled said they find March Madness activities to be a welcome diversion, and a whopping fifty-seven percent (57%) of them admitted that while they do not encourage March Madness activities in the workplace, they find said activities to be ‘OK’ in moderation.”

Could it be that any lost productivity is created by managers trying to prevent lost productivity?

Wouldn’t be the first time. Would it?

In closing we dust off our annual cartoon about the foolishness of fighting to prevent office pools and wish you good luck in winning yours.

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