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March Madness costs offices $192 million

Employers might as well embrace the tournament as a way to build company morale and workplace camaraderie.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 15, 2011 2:38PM

This post comes from Jeanine Skowronski at partner site MainStreet.


Employers may not be looking forward to March Madness.


According to a report from outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an estimated 8.4 million work hours will be lost to the annual three-week-long tournament set to begin today (March 15).


Challenger says if you multiply that figure by $22.87, the average hourly earnings among private-sector workers, the financial impact would exceed $192 million. Post continues after video.

The estimates are based in part on last year's traffic statistics from, whose online streaming service attracted 8.3 million unique visitors. Those visitors enjoyed a total of 11.7 million hours of online video and audio, which averages to about 1.4 hours per visitor.


The smart-phone effect

Challenger expects the 2011 figures to increase at least 20% to about 14 million total hours, largely due to the growing popularity of smart phones and tablets. CBSSports, for instance, is featuring a free smart-phone app that allows users to watch the games for the first time on their phones this year.


There are also four additional first-round games this year since the NCAA expanded the tournament to 68 teams. However, Challenger says, the impact these games will have is expected to be minimal since they will be played during primetime.


"It could make filling out one's bracket a little more complicated, depending on how those running the pools decide to incorporate the new format," CEO John A. Challenger said in a press release.

Challenger also said the hit to productivity isn't as bad as many employers might think.


Referencing Labor Department data, Challenger said there are roughly 108.3 million people on private payrolls, each working an average of 34.2 hours per week. This puts the total number of hours worked by the American workforce in one week at about 3.7 billion.


Work will still be done

"Over the three weeks of the tournament, the nation's 108 million workers will have logged more than 11 billion hours of work," Challenger said. "The 8.4 million hours lost to March Madness is a relative drop in the bucket, accounting for less than one-tenth of one percent (about 0.07%) of the total hours American workers will put in over the three weeks of the tournament."


Challenger said that despite the minimal impact, small firms may experience a few hiccups due to the tournament.


"For an office with 50 to 100 workers, five or 10 people streaming basketball games will definitely have an impact on everyone else's Internet speed," he said.


As such, Challenger suggests that employers embrace the tournament as a way to build company morale and workplace camaraderie.


"This could mean putting televisions in the break room, so employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet," he said. "Employers might consider organizing a companywide pool, which should have no entry fee in order to avoid ethical and/or legal questions."


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