(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
If you’re a business owner and putting some bets on your favorite college team during the NCAA tournament, you might want to up the ante. You’re going to need those winnings to pay for all the money you’re about to lose.
That’s because your company is about to forgo about $13.3bn in lost productivity that March Madness will cost American businesses, according to a recent report from outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
“Streaming games during work hours, heading to a local restaurant to watch the games, filling out brackets, or just discussing the games with co-workers will mean hours of distractions during the three-week tournament,” Andrew Challenger, vice-president at the company, warned in a press release.
How did the firm come up with this enormous number? Well, the math isn’t that tough, as long as you’re willing to take a leap of faith on their assumptions.
First, take the $156,949,000 of non-farm payroll earned in February from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and multiply it by the 48% of workers who the company estimates are spending at 6.375 hours over the tournament period watching, talking, betting and otherwise carrying on about their teams. If you get that far in your calculation then you will find that, using an average hourly rate of $27.66, the lost wages will be north of $13bn. See?
Sure, $13bn sounds like a lot, and I’m not going to go into the accuracy of the firm’s math because these are HR consultants, not mechanical engineers. But their point is nonetheless valid: employers can expect a lot of lost productivity over the next couple of weeks. So does this mean we should clamp down on our people, disconnect the internet and forbid any talk of basketball until 8 April? Of course not.
“The tournament is a perfect opportunity for colleagues to bond in the workplace,” Challenger says. “Any attempt to keep workers from the games would most likely result in real damage to employee morale, loyalty and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity.”
His suggestion? Don’t fight the tournament. Embrace it. Have fun with an office pool that offers a lunch or gift card to the winner. Allow people to tune into the games on their devices in the office. Maybe even extend lunches or longer breaks to accommodate. It’s only for a short time and it’s good for morale. Plus – and let’s face it – they’re going to do all this anyway, right? Challenger also thinks that by promoting how it celebrates March Madness to prospective employees a company could be more attractive to those millennial and gen Z workers.
So yeah, there will probably be $13bn in lost productivity in March. But in my opinion, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Doesn’t the final season of Game of Thrones start right after the tournament?