There are plenty of reasons to like March: Mother Nature starts to usher out Old Man Winter; a certain Irish-themed holiday provides an excuse to party on a Wednesday and college students are given leave to engage themselves in various forms of debauchery, the likes of which may result in an ill-advised tramp stamp or an upcoming paternity test.
But there’s one thing that happens every year in March that slows America to a near-halt, literally.
It’s the time when a mix of tradition-rich basketball programs and over-achieving Cinderella lookalikes gather to take part in a 65-team whirlwind of a college basketball tournament. It’s an annual phenomenon that takes the country by storm and captivates even the most casual of sports fans.
And now it also has many concerned with the productivity of employees, thanks to the Internet and the ever-popular office pools. With many of the first-round games taking place during business hours, millions of workers are drawn to their TVs, their computers and now their phones to catch the latest game, while it’s taking place.
The consulting firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas recently predicted that an estimated $1.8 billion will be spent on unproductive wages as a direct result of the tournament. And that’s just in the first week alone.
The Chicago-based firm said the number is based on every employee wasting 20 minutes a day watching parts of a game. With more than 58 million workers expected to participate in office pools, those minutes can add up.
But some people don’t understand what all the fuss is about.
“People waste that much time, if not more, on a normal day,” an anonymous office worker said. “If it isn’t March Madness, it’s YouTube or Facebook.”
This stoppage not only takes place in the workforce, but naturally on college campuses as well. One doesn’t need to go far at UVU before he or she sees a cluster of students around an open laptop with a live game streaming.
Kyle Flanagan, a student at UVU, said he does whatever is necessary to stay updated.
“I’ve got three brackets in three different pools,” he said. “I’m constantly checking my phone for scores, even in class.”
Employers and professors can rest assured though. After the initial slew of games, workers will be back at their desks feverishly working on spreadsheets, students will be valiantly perusing their textbooks and all will be well with the universe.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check my bracket.