CHICAGO (CBS) — As basketball fans begin to fill out brackets and make their March Madness picks, they’re also trying to figure out where to watch the first round during work hours.
According to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, employers would be wise to play ball and let employees have a little fun on the clock because it can build morale, even if it takes a toll on productivity.
About 97 million people watched March Madness games last year according to CBS. But the basketball tournament can foster a little excitement among coworkers.
“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,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
“Employers should absolutely use the games to create an atmosphere of camaraderie at the office. That said, the growing number of employed persons and the climbing hourly wage will mean employers will take a larger hit to the bottom line with this year’s tournament,” he added.
Challenger estimates every hour spent on games can cost employers $2.1 billion for a total of $13.3 billion over the length of the tournament that will end with the National Championship game on April 8.
Workers spent an average of 25.5 minutes of their workday on March Madness-related activities. That’s according to the staffing firm Office Team. A survey by TSheets and QuickBooks showed that at least 48 percent of people participating in March Madness won their brackets during work hours.
Challenger said employers should use the tournament games to build morale and not restrict their employees during the event.
“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,” Challenger said.
“Company-wide office pools that are free to enter and offer lunches or gift cards to the winners are a great way to use the games to create a fun atmosphere at work. Employers can also set up a television or computer monitor where workers can gather to watch the games,” he added.
Another suggestion is to let employees have extended lunches or longer break times throughout the day to let them catch up on their games.
“In a tight labor market, companies can use the tournament for recruiting, promoting how the office celebrates March Madness. This could be especially effective among Millennial and Gen Z workers,” said Challenger.
This Sunday is known as “Selection Sunday” and the first and second rounds are set to begin on March 21 and 23.
Watch the games on CBS.