March Madness: In defense of wasting company time

March 16, 2015

The first game doesn’t tip off until tomorrow evening, but the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament is already in full swing. As soon as the tournament’s 68 teams were announced last night, tens of millions of Americans began filling out the office pool brackets that will consume untold hours and energy over the next few weeks.

Tracking time stolen from one’s employer is obviously an inexact science, but according to a 2012 MSN survey, 56 percent of workers planned to spend at least one hour on bracket-related activities. According to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, that amounts to 77.7 million workers who will cost their employers the average national hourly wage of $24.78, adding up to as much as $1.9 billion in lost work this year.

But if you’re a manager, worry not: This is money well wasted. According to a 2013 study by the Society for Human Resources Management, 64 percent of HR professionals say March Madness brackets promote team building, and 54 percent say they increase employee engagement. And an OfficeTeam survey this year found that 50 percent of senior managers thought pools boost employee morale, while 36 percent connect them to an increase in workplace productivity.

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