March Madness is about to begin as the annual basketball tournament approaches, and there are conflicting reports about what that means for business productivity.
Some business leaders said celebrating March Madness boosts morale and productivity, according to an Office Team survey.
An independent research firm did interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees, asking:
Do you feel March Madness activities in the workplace, such as watching games or participating in pools that don't involve money, have a positive or negative impact on employee morale?
Very positive: 5 percent
Somewhat positive: 15 percent
No impact: 75 percent
Somewhat negative: 3 percent
Very negative: 1 percent
No answer/don't know: 1 percent
But another survey from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that nearly one-third of workers spent at least three hours per day following the tournament during work hours.
According to the report, it will cost American companies at least $134 million in “lost wages” over the first two days of the men's NCAA tournament because about 3 million employees spend hours following the games.
Even with those facts, the potential distraction and lost hours won't impact the economy or a company's bottom line.
“But, if you ask department managers and corporate IT managers, 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 officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a prepared statement.
"Starting the day after Selection Sunday, people will be organizing office pools, researching teams and planning viewing parties," he said. "When the games begin ... on Thursday, many companies will probably notice a significant drop in Internet speeds, as employees start streaming games and clogging up the network’s bandwidth."
But Kevin Green, with Chattanooga's Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of staffing agency Robert Half International, said that another survey shows there are positive benefits of employees celebrating the tournament.
"It can be a nice stress reliever," he said. "It can be a fun way of letting off steam and bonding the team. Most people tend to make up work on their own time, anyway."
As with anything, the key is balance, he said.
Employees need to make sure they understand company policies, he said.
"It can be team building, if nothing else," Green said. "You can open this up to non-basketball fans. The brackets can be fun. [Company leaders] can let people wear their jerseys. As much as there is a potential for negative productivity, there is a great opportunity to boost morale."