The National College Athletic Association’s Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, better known as March Madness, are upon us in the US. In the next few weeks leading up to the championship game on April 2, millions of Americans will devote millions of hours to watching the games, talking about them, betting on them, checking scores, and comparing tournament brackets with other fans. Last year’s tournament was watched by an average of 10.4 million television viewers and generated 98 million live streams, while the television audience of the championship game averaged 23 million viewers.
So if you’re a US employer, it’s reasonable to assume that at least some of your employees are going to come down with March Madness this month, potentially distracting them from their work. An OfficeTeam survey conducted in February found that the average worker spends 25.5 minutes per workday on sports-related activities during the tournament, or a total of about six hours. Nearly half of the professionals surveyed said they love celebrating sporting events like March Madness in the office.
The cost of that distraction? According to an estimate from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, US employers could stand to lose “$2.3 billion per hour in time employees are engaged with the tournament at work”:
More than 40 million Americans fill out tournament brackets, according to the American Gaming Association. Applying the current employment-to-population ratio to that figure indicates that 23.7 million workers will fill out brackets for this year’s games. Of course, the distractions do not end with filling out the bracket. Even more productivity is lost over the first two full days of tournament play (Thursday and Friday), when a dozen games are played during work hours.