It’s no secret that massive sporting events come with a drop in productivity, especially if they take place during primetime: scroll Twitter during the fourth quarter of a Sunday Night Football game and you’re sure to see people complain about how awful they’ll feel at work the next morning. What’s more, many have called for the day after the Super Bowl to become a national holiday because of this phenomenon. The Super Bowl has a crazy enough impact as one game; imagine a month packed with 67 high stakes, high energy games like that, and you’ll get the productivity crash that is March Madness.
Not only do the games go late into the night, making people sluggish the next day: it’s happening in the middle of the week too. The Monday blues are to be expected, but wiped out employees on a Wednesday morning is another beast entirely. Even worse, the games don’t just happen at night. During the peak of the tournament in the first couple rounds, the NCAA is trying to pack as many as 16 games into a single day. As such, the games are taking place from around noon EDT, luring sports fanatic employees into watching March Madness while they’re on the clock.
Just how costly will the dip in productivity be? Outplacement and career transitioning firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc. estimated that employers will lose $17.3 billion US Dollars based on productivity output as a result of the tournament. Not all big businesses are going to fall victim to the sporting madness, however. While the NCAA tournament cost employers billions, Caesars Sportsbook Massachusetts hopes to take advantage with the launch of online sports betting in the Commonwealth that kicked off last Friday, just in time for the start of the tournament.
A Blessing… and a Curse
The pageantry that comes with March Madness makes it a great opportunity for the wary employer. Bracket competitions, whether for money with a business-wide pool, or just for bragging rights and the satisfaction of winning, are a great way to help invigorate an office and get people talking. There’s no feeling like winning, and the personal stakes aren’t quite as high when you aren’t actually the one competing: friendly banter about a bracket mishap doesn’t hit as close to home.
Medical trade magazine Becker’s Hospital Review cited a 2018 QuickBooks survey which said that 48% of workers fine tune their brackets while at work: another survey said that the average amount of time spent per workday on March Madness-related activities amounts to 25.5 minutes. Multiply that by the average hourly wage (and the number of workdays interspersed across the tournament) and you get those lofty figures that employers are set to lose out on.
Of course, office related bracket challenges are endorsed by employers within reason. The surveys (and therefore, the estimated losses) may be an undershoot because they didn’t account for other actions like watching or listening to the games while on the clock.
The article in Becker’s Hospital Review went on to point out that as the world economy continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic (and workers and businesses alike deal with layoffs and general uncertainty because of it), office bracket pools are an excellent way to boost morale. Many bracket challenges that contain a monetary prize come from entry fees pooled by the competitors: employers providing the prizes themselves or offering other game day specials like watch parties takes the pressure off the employees, making it more inviting for those who don’t like sports to participate.
While floating the cost of winning prizes might mean a slight budget hit, it could pay off in spades with a revitalized and motivated workforce.