Study: March Madness brackets can be an office morale boost

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By Scott Stump

Once March Madness tips off every year, the equation is usually simple: The ball goes up, and worker productivity goes down. 

However, a recent survey has found that the time spent filling out brackets and lamenting not picking that Cinderella seed can actually be beneficial to work environments. In a survey by OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in placing temporary office workers, 32 percent of senior managers interviewed said activities related to the NCAA Tournament boost employee morale, and 27 percent say they have a positive impact on productivity. Those two figures are up 20 percent and 16 percent, respectively, from the same survey taken last year. 

Those findings are at odds with an annual study by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, Inc., that has found that companies stand to lose $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament. The firm estimates that 50 million Americans will be participating in March Madness office pools, and if they even spend one hour filling out brackets and following the tournament, it will costs businesses more than $1 billion. 

"Of course they're a distraction," John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, told TODAY Thursday in a Kerry Sanders report. "We're streaming the videos; we're filling out our brackets. When we're doing that, we're not working." 

While everyone from President Barack Obama to the TODAY anchors have filled out a bracket, that doesn't mean work grinds to a halt. Professors at Duke (which has won four NCAA titles) have studied March Madness and found that workers can effectively multi-task, keeping an eye on their brackets and the other on their TPS reports. Even Challenger, whose firm did the study on lost productivity, has an NCAA pool at the office. 

"Everybody's playing these pools,'' Challenger said. "If you can't beat them, why not join them?"