That’s Why They Call It March Madness

Here’s a stat to mull over as the deadline for NCAA tourney pools fast approaches: $3.8 billion. That may sound like first prize in the office pool at profit-happy Exxon Mobil this year. But it’s actually an estimate of the cost in lost productivity to U.S. companies during the basketball tournament by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The outplacement firm based its calculation on the 41 percent of workers who told Gallup Poll last year that they were college basketball fans and on the average time that fans spent during a visit to during last year’s tournament, 13.5 minutes. Which is to say, we’ll be lucky to lose $3.8 billion in work. The office pools, after all, attract both fans and non-fans. And now that CBS is broadcasting early-round games online, it’s hard to imagine people getting back to work after just 13.5 minutes.

It’s enough to drive any boss or team leader mad. Any bright ideas on balancing the fun of an NCAA pool with the demands of this month’s work load? How do you manage something that can boost morale without being a spoil sport?