Tuesday, March 15, 2011
9:00 a.m.

By Joe Collins
The NCAA Tournament is here! How much time will you dedicate to your brackets? Will you call in sick on Thursday and Friday? How many nachos and adult beverages will you consume this weekend? I suppose this is a good time to shamelessly plug our Comcast SportsNet Bracket Challenge here on the website. Call your friends, sign up and compete for some nice prizes. Everyone loves brackets!

Well...maybe not everyone.

Chicago-based outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. states that more work hours could be lost to the NCAA basketball tournament this year. Extra games, wider access to tournament coverage and advances in technology could be the main culprits in draining the office productivity pool (no pun intended of course).

The group estimates that total online viewership during office hours is likely to reach at least 8.4 million hours nationwide during this year's tournament, which begins with play-in games on Tuesday. Multiply that figure by the average hourly earnings of 22.87 among private-sector workers and the financial impact exceeds 192 million. Challenger bases these numbers on 2010 March Madness traffic statistics from

During the 2010 tournament, Challenger estimated that lost productivity would cost 1.8 billion in wages paid to unproductive workers. However, CG&C state that this number is a non-scientific ballpark guesstimate.

Those numbers seem jarring but don't worry too much, American workers.

"In the end, we have already seen that the impact of the NCAA basketball tournament to the overall economy is so minute that is should not cause any concern," CEO John A. Challenger said. "What is more important is how individual companies address the issue among their employees. The situation is comparable to a traffic accident, which does not have any measurable impact on the overall economy, but if you happen to be stuck in the resulting congestion and arrive late to work because of it, it has an immediate and noticeable impact on your day's productivity."


But doesn't March Madness, pools and brackets typically brighten the mood around the office...even if it takes away from meetings and PowerPoint seminars?

"Rather than try to squash employee interest in March Madness, companies could try to embrace it as a way to build morale and camaraderie," Challenger said. "This could mean putting televisions in the break room, so employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet."

Guess I should be fortunate to have a job where there's 20 monitors within remote control striking distance.

How will you spend March Madness this year? Are you hitting the bars? Your friend's house? Maybe you're checking the games out at the United Center? Or maybe you'll be (coughcough) catch the flu on Thursday. Whatever you're doing, March Madness will find a way to seep through your pores. My advice: soak it in as much as possible. Be a part of the insanity. Pick a Cinderella and see if she can still has her dancing shoes come April.

And don't be surprised if you see Richmond in the Sweet 16. Shhhhh.

Or Something Like That.