MENLO PARK, Calif. — March Madness brings a wave of excitement nationwide for serious, casual, and even the not-so-much sports fans. For office managers, it can bring about a serious headache. A new study finds that the average employee spends about six hours of their time during the NCAA tournament paying attention to sports-related activities instead of their work.
Researchers on behalf of the staffing service OfficeTeam surveyed more than 1,000 adult office workers and more than 300 senior managers across the U.S. on work habits during the tournament.
They found that workers spend about 25.5 minutes each day during the tournament’s 15 days of games checking scores, peeking at highlights, examining their brackets, talking to other employees about the games, and other sports-related activities. That’s equivalent to six hours of office time devoted to the NCAA tournament.
What are the most common behaviors observed by higher-ups? According to the senior managers surveyed, 62% say they often catch workers checking scores along with their bracket rankings. Not far behind is noticing an increase in sports talk around the office (59%) and team or tournament decorations being hung or added to workers’ desks (55%).
Forty-eight percent of managers say employees wear their favorite team’s jerseys to work during the games.
It may seem counterproductive, but giving workers the opportunity to socialize during the highly-celebrated tournament may actually be good for office mojo.
“While employers may worry about events like March Madness being a distraction in the office, allowing workers to enjoy sports-related activities for even a few minutes can be time well spent,” says Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “Staff will appreciate the opportunity to bond with colleagues and return to their desks rejuvenated.”
Not everyone in the organization appreciates the distraction, however. More than 1 in 5 workers (21%) prefer to keep activities related to the NCAA tournament out of the office altogether. Those folks are in the minority, though. Almost half of workers polled (46%) say they’re “big fans” of celebrating the tournament or hosting brackets at work, while a third admit they’re not sports fans, but play along nonetheless.
As for who burns the most time at work on March Madness, it’s probably no surprised that male employees take the cake at 36 minutes per day. Workers between the ages of 18 and 34 were also devoted fans, giving the tournament about 34 minutes of daily attention.
Britton says employees should monitor the amount of work they’re blowing off while the games are on and make sure that their activities aren’t violating company policy. If work habits are suffering, it may be best to take a day off. If you can keep it to a minimum, however, employers shouldn’t worry about lost time.
“Companies should trust employees to manage their time. Good workers still get their projects done, even if they take occasional breaks,” she says.