March Madness and Productivity

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The NCAA Basketball Tournament has a natural tendency to dominate general office conversation this time of year. Words like brackets and pool are in heavy rotation. With many of the games happening during work hours, the action on the court often extends into the office. For instance, you might see more iPads being used as a temporary screens for streaming games. For better or worse, when it comes to productivity, March Madness has the potential to directly affect the businesses we work for.

Each year, employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas crunches the numbers surrounding the loss of productivity attributed to staying up late to catch the final game winning shot, following the tournament during work hours and triple-checking to make sure brackets are still accurate. According to the firm’s report, roughly 50 million Americans will craft a bracket this year. Multiply this figure by an average hourly wage of $24.31 and there’s a potential loss of $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour. Although March Madness doesn’t cause the quarterly GDP to take a dive, company Internet speeds and employee efficiency may suffer.

The gut reaction from company management may be to block access to the games; but if a company gets behind March Madness in moderation, the tournament has the ability to increase company morale and welcome the personal lives and interests of employees into the workplace. We’re all guilty of checking social media or taking a quick look at a Youtube video here and there, and the NCAA tournament is just an extension of this at a heightened level.

If you’re committed to cheering on your alma mater during tournament season, some strategy may be needed. To make March Madness watching easier to achieve while on the clock, CBSSports.com has conveniently introduced the Boss Button. With a quick click, arbitrary graphs and a comprehensive spreadsheet quickly blanket the game that is being watched. (Writers note: Trible and Watson, if you see an Excel document on my monitor at any time during the next three weeks, I swear it’s legitimate.)

We’re holding our first office pool this year – Madras Madness. We caught up with Rob from our design team, who is an avid sports fan and is coordinating the pool, for his thoughts surrounding the tournament:

You are the go to guy for sports updates in the office. When it comes to college basketball, what do you enjoy most about watching it?

I really enjoy the pacing of basketball, where every possession counts, especially in a close game. Every bucket, stop, and foul creates a huge swing in a team’s momentum. And in March Madness it’s all amplified because it’s one loss and you’re out. The tension and energy in most of these tournament games are what makes March Madness so exciting.

You mentioned earlier that you’ve coordinated pools for past tournaments. Are there any tips to creating a strong bracket that you are willing to share?

Haha, no. The only thing that’s remotely a sure thing is the #1 seed will win their first game, but even that will inevitably change eventually. Beyond that, depending on how much research you want to put into the matchups, you can look at things like the team’s record vs. Top 25 teams, their average points scored and allowed, their conference record, etc., and make a judgement call. But it probably won’t matter because it’s all so unpredictable.

If I had to give one piece of (ultimately poor) advice to filling out your bracket, it would be this: Throw in a few upsets!

You can plead the fifth on this one – Do you anticipate the tournament having an impact on your productivity during the workday? Any games that that you are particularly looking forward to watching during the first round?

I feel that it’s my duty as an American that my productivity decline a bit during the tournament. Or at the very least, it’s habit, I enjoy watching the games but I’ll keep their distraction to a minimum.

Living in Richmond now (and with my alma mater, Missouri, not making the tournament this year), I’m excited to see how well #5 VCU does. The 12-5 match up they’re in is by no means a given. Sometimes once a team wins their first round gimme, you see them get the confidence to win some more improbable games, like what happened to VCU a few years ago when they beat Kansas (which not a few folks back in Missouri applauded). I’m also curious to see how well Wichita State does. I have my doubts about them, but they’re definitely in an advantageous position as a #1 seed, and it would be exciting for them to go deep into the tournament.

Which team do you think has the greatest chance of going all the way this year?
I like Louisville. I have to admit I haven’t watched much college basketball this year, but Louisville seems sneaky as a #4 seed, especially when all the #1 seeds seem more beatable than usual, and Louisville’s division is particularly winnable with Wichita State as the #1. Arizona, Florida, Michigan State, and Creighton are a few other teams that I think might make a good run. But ultimately, go Missouri!

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