March Madness in the Office

March Madness is set to tip off the week of March 18, and employers and employees are getting ready. According to a survey recently released by MSN and Impulse research, 66 percent of workers will be following March Madness while at work, with 20 percent of respondents expecting to spend one to two hours following the games, and 16 percent saying they will spend five hours or more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of December of 2012, American workers earn an average of $23.75 per hour. If one million workers spend just one hour following basketball and not working, the cost to employers will be $23,750,000 for that hour. Then, there’s the time spent arranging the office pools, researching teams, and organizing viewing parties. 

On top of the lost productivity, there are also the network issues. Employees don’t need computers to stream the games live, they just need a smart phone or tablet. If those devices are using the company’s Wi-Fi, it’s the same drain on bandwidth as if they were using office computers. In a survey of IT professionals done by Modis, 34 percent of respondents say they will take some action to prepare for March Madness. This includes banning March Madness video, throttling video speeds, or blocking all content. Other organizations say they will depend on their current internet streaming and content policies during the tournament. Thirty percent of respondents say they will monitor for content violators and 24 percent say they will remind employees about the company’s streaming policies. Interestingly, 66 percent of companies that have streaming policies indicated they would make an exception for a CEO or president. 

If you haven’t thought about it yet, you may want to. The cost to productivity can be huge, and if there is a significant slowdown to your network, even those employees not watching the games will be less productive. On the other hand, March Madness is one of the most popular sporting events in the U.S., and encouraging a little discussion or competition can be a way for employees to connect with each other.