Workday Hoopla

Nearly a third of employees watch March Madness hoops during the workday.

With the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship tournament set to tip off, employers should be readying for a likely drop in productivity and Net access.

In its annual study, Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates that March Madness will cost American companies at least $134 million in lost wages over the first two days of the tournament, as an estimated three million employees spend one to three hours following the basketball games instead of working.

A survey by MSN and Impulse Research found that 66% of workers will follow March Madness during work hours, with 20% expecting to spend one to two hours following games, 14% spending three to four hours, and 16% saying they will spend five hours or more watching games instead of working. In addition, seven percent of respondents said they take time off from work to watch the tournament, and 12% admit to having called in sick in past years to watch the games.

Faster workplace Internet speeds and portable technology have made it easier to watch the games from one’s desk, as the NCAA, CBS Sports and Turner Sports have partnered again to offer March Madness Live, which offers free streaming across all Net-connected devices for pay-TV subscribers.


And according to statistics from Turner Sports cited in a recent Multichannel News report, online March Madness coverage attracted over 220 million visits during the 2012 Tournament, an average of about 2.2 million visitors per day. Online visitors are likely to grow in 2013, as March Madness Live expands availability to smartphones and tablets with the Android operating system, in addition to the iPhones and iPads that had access in the past.

Challenger estimates that during work hours online coverage is attracting at least three million viewers, based on the Tournament averages. With the latest government statistics indicating that American workers earn $22.38 per hour, if three million workers spend just one hour watching games instead of working, the cost to employers in lost or unproductive wages could hit $67.1 million. Many companies will probably notice a significant drop in Internet speeds as employees start streaming games.

Yet given such bigger impacts as sequestration, watching March Madness at work won’t even register as a blip in the economy. Will March Madness even have an effect on a company’s bottom line?  Not at all, said John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.