March Madness and the overstated employee productivity issue

 John L. Robinsonand no doubt others, raised the annual alarm for the people-sit-around-the-office-watching-basketball story, which, just like PNC Wealth Management’s annual Twelve Days of Christmas price list, smart editors have learned to spike on sight.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the euphemistically self-described “global outplacement firm,” pumps out its March Madness “survey” every spring before theNCAA basketball tournament. This year, it says workers on average will waste three hours a day as they follow the tournament on the clock. The firm “estimates that March Madness will cost American companies at least $134 million in ‘lost wages’ over the first two days of the Tournament,” based on a tortured calculation whose detailed description in a press release masks the highly speculative nature of the number.

The nifty part of the announcement, though, is that although these millions of slothful workers will be watching games when there is work to be done, it really won’t cost their employers anything after all.

“’At the end of the day [sic], March Madness will not even register as a blip in the overall economy. Sequestration is going to have a far bigger impact. Will March Madness even have an effect on a company’s bottom line? Not at all,’ said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.”

Mick's Picks Jimmy Kimmel‘s cousin Micki Marseglia explains why Colorado seems like a winner. (Hint: Rocky Road ice cream)

Wait. You can’t have it both ways. If the basketball-watching costs companies $134 million, it might not affect bottom lines much, but it will affect them.  Money, even a relatively small sum, has to come from somewhere. Or is this more imaginary money, like the figures cited when assessing the “economic impact” of Super Bowls or political conventions on host cities?

Surely someone called Challenger, Gray & Christmas on this. I’ll send a fine cigar to the first person whowrites me and shows me where. 

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