March Madness brackets: payback for working the rest of the year

With few boundaries left between work and personal time, March Madness is a fair tradeoff for the way we work in the 21st century. Photo: March Madness at work: It's payback time

SAN DIEGO – March 21, 2013 – With the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament known as “March Madness” in full swing, bosses and office IT departments everywhere are starting to cringe as they try and limit the distraction. 

This year, the tournament runs through Monday, April 8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The first four, second and third round play runs from March 19 through March 24. Regional championships are March 28 through 31. The Final Four play April 6 and the championship game is Monday, April 8.

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Games can begin as early as 12 noon Eastern time, squarely during working hours for most Americans.

You better not count on any big project getting finished during the tournament. According to the annual “Productivity Report” created by business consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 8.4 million work hours are spent watching the NCAA tournament games.

Online viewing of March Madness could add up to more than 2.5 million unique visitors a day, each spending an average of 90 minutes watching games. The Challenger report, partly tongue-in-cheek, estimates that workers distracted by March Madness will cost employers about $175 million in work left undone over just the first few days of the tournament, using an average hourly wage for private-sector workers of $23.39 per hour.

So some workers might not respond to email as promptly, if they ever did. Lunchtimes could extend beyond the usual hour. Big deal. Who’s fooling whom? This stuff is going on all year long anyway. It’s just that during March Madness, the slacking off all focuses on basketball instead of other sports along with cute cat videos and online shopping. You’ve got to do something to keep your sanity in between soul-sucking, mind-numbing work while confined to a cube. 

SEE RELATED: March Madness: Poor team selection weakens NCAA tournament

If you don’t have a little fun and renewal at work once in a while, you’ll end up clutching a red stapler and blowing the place up like this guy in the move Office Space. Photo:

It seems a perfectly fair and healthy tradeoff for the way people work in the 21st century. If your boss, colleagues, and clients expect you to answer email, take phone calls, and deal with work issues during your so-called off hours on evening and weekends with no extra pay, you should be cut some slack when you spare a little time during the workday for your own pursuits. Chances are darn good you give that tournament time back in a half hour of dealing with work on a Wednesday night or a Saturday morning here and there all year long. 

The dividing line between your work time and your personal time is so blurred anymore that to forbid you to do any online banking, personal shopping, or news and entertainment use for a few minutes here and there at the office is ridiculous. On the contrary, this sort of flexibility is healthy and assumes you to be an adult until proven otherwise.

Some workplaces are smart enough to install a gym on the premises or offer to pick up and deliver your dry cleaning so you’ll stay at work longer hours. Talk about sneaky.

This does not mean spending hours at a time neglecting your responsibilities. We all know people who are cyberslacking at work day after day. March Madness is just more of the same to these people and they make anyone who takes a minute to order a birthday present online look bad.

It doesn’t mean some bosses won’t try to stop your fun at their expense. A national survey of 500 IT professionals commissioned by Modis, a global provider of IT staffing services reveals that one-third of office IT departments are preparing to block, ban or slow down streaming of March Madness content at work. Half of those surveyed say their companies take some level of action to block or ban streaming content at the workplace throughout the year. Thirty percent monitor employees to be sure they comply.

But thanks to mobile technology, today workers watch live streaming video and monitor scores on tablets and smart phones without touching the workplace desktop where viewing is prohibited. It serves management right for expecting workers to be accessible 24/7 so they can reach you 24/7. Live by the sword, die by the sword people.  

A survey just released by MSN indicates that employers may simply have to accept the fact that workers will find some way to enjoy the games. In the survey, 86 percent of respondents said they plan to devote at least some time during their workday to follow games, scores and updates.

When is the last time 86 percent of Americans agreed on anything? Companies should embrace March Madness as a way to build morale. If employees are getting all of their work done and customers are happy and the biggest problem is a slow internet connection for a couple of days, let it slide. And tell those IT guys to lighten up, Francis. 

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +


Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News when quoting from or linking to this story.   


Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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