Filling out a bracket for the annual NCAA basketball tournament every March has become an office tradition for millions of Americans, but the distraction can take its toll on employers' bottom lines.
Nearly 24 million workers will fill out brackets this year, and spend hours watching or talking about games while they're on the clock. Those distracted and unproductive workers could result in $2.1 billion in lost wages for companies, assuming one hour of time wasted on the games, according to a new analysis by outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.
"These estimates, of course, do not take into account every situation, but the fact remains that this national pastime, much of which occurs during work hours, will distract employees to some extent," John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas said in a statement. "Even workers who are not deskbound with internet access in an office are susceptible to this distraction. Hourly workers in the field may be consumed by the tournament on their smartphones and tablets."
Indeed, it's easier than ever to watch the tournament games. Viewers can watch via the NCAA app or website, and there are even several services that will let non-cable subscribers see the games live.
Selection Sunday will take place on March 12 this year, and the first games will begin on March 14.
Challenger recommends that companies avoid discouraging workers from enjoying the tournament, which could have a negative impact on morale. At least one boss has already gotten that message: Warren Buffett is encouraging Berkshire Hathaway employees to fill out brackets this year. He's promised any employee that correctly picks the Sweet 16 a prize of $1 million for life.
This story first appeared on The Fiscal Times.