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Does March Madness Mean a Drop in Productivity? [POLL/AUDIO]

Employers would be wise to expect a drop in worker output over the next week or two. March Madness 2013 has launched, and surveys suggest the annual tournament can result in less productivity at the workplace.

NCAA Men's Championship Game - Butler v UConn
NCAA Men’s Championship Game, 2011 (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

The outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas found at least $134 million in output will be lost to workers watching the basketball tournament, possibly because they have a few bucks on the line.

A survey from MSN and Impulse Research found that more than 65 percent of workers say they will follow the games during the workday.

Sixteen bracket games will air on television both Thursday and Friday, beginning at 12:15 p.m. each day.

Games Streamed Online

Nowadays, workers don’t have to crowd around a TV monitor in the break room to catch the basketball action. The World Wide Web has made it possible for many employees to get the games live right on the computer at their desk.

“There are always concerns about using company resources to have the games streamed live,” said David Strand with Fisher & Phillips, a labor and employment law firm in New Providence, New Jersey. “The idea that people aren’t going to do it is kind of amusing.”

He said if employers want to make sure March Madness doesn’t step on their toes, they can strictly enforce any policies they may have on misuse of company equipment.

“If you turn a blind eye, you run the risk of having people argue that you don’t really enforce these policies anyway,” Strand explained.

Office Bandwidth Can Be Affected

So many employers watching the games at the same time can also be a drain on the office’s bandwidth. E-mails could be slow going out and coming in, or the Internet could drag, adding up to several hours of lost time.

Strand suggested employers provide a main “watching area” for employees to use during their off-time. Some offices may have a designated area anyway, and March Madness could be used as a way to boost employee morale.

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