While you get ready for today’s basketball action, here something for you to consider:
Along with all of this media coverage, come all of the reports of how much March Madness will cost the economy in terms of lost productivity. Distracted by office pools, tournament brackets, and the fact that all of the games will be streamed for free over the internet this year, workers everywhere are called by the siren song of the NCAA tournament. Previous studies have estimated that the tournament will cost anywhere from $1 to $4 billion in lost productivity.
So, is this something that businesses should worry about though? Not really.
First of all, the math and assumptions used to calculate such losses are rather ridiculous and full of holes. A similar study back in 2006 tried to claim that “workplace interruptions,” like phone calls, cost the US $588 billion a year. Sure, you may spend 2 minutes doing something that is not exactly in your job description, but to automatically assume that the time is forever lost and somehow cumulative is completely bogus. If you’re measuring productivity in terms of hours, instead of actual work outputted, then perhaps you’re measuring the wrong thing.
Secondly, March Madness is a good opportunity to “embrace the annual ritual as a way to boost morale.” This is the advice of John A. Challenger, CEO of the very firm that conducts the lost productivity study each year (interestingly, the firm chose not to do the study this year).
That’s a pretty interesting and refreshing viewpoint, and one I think far more accurate than the numbers and scenarios that a lot of folks pull out of their rear-ends when they write their annual doom and gloom press releases. My favorite is this one:
Many people choose to watch the NCAA tournament at work over the Internet. This clearly has a negative impact on workplace productivity. As a result, some companies have developed policies against gambling to deal with the growing problem.
For most people, March Madness is a fun time. It does not become problematic. For a small percentage, it can initiate or accelerate a growing gambling problem. Symptoms include lies to loved ones, betting more than you planned, and a solitary focus on the bet.
I like it because of its unintentional comedic effect. Dropping ten dollars into an office pool may cause some folks to a life of being a depraved gambler. I don’t buy that, not for a second. While it is tragic the damage that some gambling addicts bring upon themselves and their loved ones, I doubt that very many at all got their start filling out an NCAA bracket.
This one thing is for sure: junk stats and clever PR ploys based on slightly tangential events will never die. And people will undoubtedly never take them seriously, no matter how well meaning they are.
And by the way: if you have a radio in your office but no television, the games will be on 99.9FM. Enjoy.