As millions of workers across the U.S. prepare to fill out March Madness brackets next week, the basketball tourney competition could cost employers more than $600 million in lost productivity and $2.1 billion overall.
Those were the conclusions from a study by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.
Overall, this commonplace American office tradition distracts workers, a cost the study puts at $2.1 billion.
Challenger's estimate is based on the number of working Americans who are likely to be caught up in March Madness; the estimated time spent filling out brackets and streaming games; and average hourly earnings, which, in January, stood at $26, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A 2015 estimate from the American Gaming Association estimated 40 million Americans fill out 70 million brackets. Even with the most conservative estimates, each hour of unproductive work time for an estimated 23.7 million bracket-producing workers will cost employers $615 million, the study found.
Ironically, the inverse also holds true -- that barring employees from participating in the popular contest could damage morale and stifle camaraderie, thereby affecting workplace effectiveness, the study reports.
In this vein, Challenger CEO John A. Challenger notes that it is possible to use March Madness participation in the workplace as a recruitment and retention tool.
"Employers should embrace March Madness and seek ways to use it as a tool to foster camaraderie," he said.