The Madness of March

Come on, admit it. You’re reading this at work. You do it every month, and we thank you.

OK, now get back to the task that dominates every business in March. You know, checking out your bracket for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Don’t worry about pushing off a project or two. Chances are your coworkers are not paying much attention, since they already may be combing the Internet to find an unheralded No. 13 seed to pick for an upset.

There is a lot of money to be won in March Madness, from traditional office pools photocopied on the company’s dime to more elaborate on-line wagering that will blow the beads off your abacus.

Billions of dollars will be won, but there is always one guaranteed loser.  That would be your employer.

Come March Madness, when brackets are filled out, and ESPN’s website hits soar, businesses are preparing to suffer.

According to the Chicago-based, numbers-crunching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the NCAA Tournament last year saw 60 million Americans spend most, if not all, of a given work shift watching games and point spreads rather than, well, actually working.

The cost to employers was an estimated $1.9 billion in wages paid for work not done – and that was just for one hour spent filling out brackets for the first week of the tournament. The lost productivity was up from an estimated $1.2 billion per hour spent on March Madness in 2014.

Challenger’s calculations from 2014 were based on the number of bracket-loving employees – 50 million of them back then – multiplied by an average hourly salary of $24.31.

Mind you, employers tend to not publicly complain too loud about the lost work hours, opting instead for a less Draconian tact and talking more about the virtues of team building through wagering.

National politics and foreign policies also take a break in Washington as President Obama has been filling out brackets in the White House since 2009.

John A. Challenger, CEO of the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, called that 2015 figure of $1.9 billion in lost productivity “conservative,” at best.

The numbers could be even higher this March.  So, you, get back to work, and do it now. And, oh, by the way, do you know who Villanova plays in the first round and what’s the line?