Why CIOs shouldn't worry about March Madness productivity losses

Matt Kapko

Your dreams of a perfect March Madness bracket may have gone bust, but the friendly competition among coworkers in office pools is likely hitting new heights as the tournament approaches the final stretch.

CIOs and IT managers might be concerned about all the social media activity and online viewing taking place over these 19 days of college hoops mania, but the subsequent rise in employee engagement should not be overlooked.

"While March Madness distractions may not alter the nation's quarterly GDP numbers, you can be assured that department managers and network administrators notice the effect on work output and company-wide Internet speeds." — John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas

Prior to the first tip-off, the NCAA projected 7.7 million social media comments will be made about the tournament during telecasts. The NCAA also reports at least 1.5 billion online conversations will occur about its corporate partners throughout the tournament. Out of the 189 million viewers expected to watch games on television, online or mobile, 149 million people are expected to watch the tournament on TV at home.

Every year research firms publish fresh data about the money lost due to a dip in productivity during March Madness. With an estimated 50 million people participating in office pools this year, one firm calculates at least $1.2 billion was already lost for every unproductive work hour during the first week of action.

March Madness: Hazardous to Business or Just a Game?
"There are distractions every day at the office, but the first week of the annual men's college basketball tournament is particularly hazardous to workplace productivity. While March Madness distractions may not alter the nation's quarterly GDP numbers, you can be assured that department managers and network administrators notice the effect on work output and company-wide Internet speeds," John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, writes in the firm's latest report.

"It's going to happen either way so you might as well get some cultural bang for your buck," — David Fagiano, COO,Dale Carnegie Training

While it may be hard to overlook those statistics, employers can be reassured that there are positive benefits of March Madness as well. These short-term losses in productivity and revenue can easily be parlayed into long-term gains for companies that appreciate the power of a more engaged and enriched workforce.

"March Madness can be a fun event. People should have fun at work and be fun at work, but being happy doesn't necessarily mean you're engaged," says David Fagiano, COO of Dale Carnegie Training. "Engagement is driven on an emotional level so you need to win the hearts and the minds of people. When you win the minds of people you get commitment, but when you win the hearts of people you get belief."

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