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March Madness: Some Businesses Will Let Workers Watch NCAA Games

March Madness: Some Businesses Will Let Workers Watch NCAA Games
March Madness: Some Businesses Will Let Workers Watch NCAA Games GUEST:Scott Minto, director, sports business management MBA program at San Diego State University

I am Tom Fudge, and this is KPBS Midday Edition. It is called March Madness, open the NCAA game is on, work takes a downturn. Is it possible that people are watching games or managing the office betting pool when they should be paying attention to work? The tournament starts today, so we thought it would be a good time to start with -- to talk with the five. For coming in. Thanks for having me. So how does the term in effect bottom line of business and industry? There's a lot of estimates out there, that one city in particular estimates that it is a one point that it is a one $.9 billion loss in productivity attributed to the March madness tournament in it over the course of the game so go on during the day. It is estimating that workers make a certain amount of wage per hour, an estimate of how much they report spinning time focused on their brackets, checking source, watching games, and streaming them lives. Who are these people watching at work? What kind of businesses or workers? Primarily, office workers. You will not find drivers and laborers and the like -- hopefully brain surgeons are watching games for they are performing surgery. You are really talking about the highest density of folks doing this would be in the financial sector and sales sector. Office jobs with a have easy access to the scores. And, they have a little downtime during the job. Obviously. The Internet will be there as a distraction for folks, but here on the West Coast, get started 9:15 a.m. Have serious temptation to go over and watch sports and set up working. Some serious downtime which is not normally downtime. Guests that is what we are talking about. They talk about the boss button on some computers where the -- when the boss comes by, you can hit a button and it goes back to the spreadsheet or whatever it is. One study I read said that managers are more likely to participate in March Madness than the people they supervise. That is actually a study that came out recently that said that managers that make $75,000 or more art anymore -- are to be percent more likely to disobey. It stands to reason that these are college educated folks that maybe went to some of the schools participating in the turn -- in the tournament itself. They are more likely to be distracted by their fan allegiances. When you think about other effects it can have a workplace, a lot of people are watching on their computers, guests the streaming of games can have an effect on the computer server? That is correct. A lot of IT professionals see that as some of the most stressful times of the year. Some surveys even look at potential for over one third of people saying that it cripples their network. They prefer the employees to watch at a bar and not break the system for everyone else who is trying to work. So, what should we say about this? I guess some people see a problem, other people maybe the an opportunity. I see an opportunity. These are my favorite two times of my year. This is a holiday for my students and faculty. This is our program holiday. We don't have class on the first two based March Madness. We embrace it and get into it. Officers and managers can do the same thing this is the way to rally around the local team, to have the collegiate rivalries double up for folks in accounting that don't necessarily deal with HR or IT. This is a chance for everyone to come together and wager on an office pool, or do one for free. Here at the PBS -- KPBS, we have TVs up, and typically they are tend to Fox or CNN to see what stories they are covering pic but during March Madness, typically one or two of those TVs are tend to the best of all game. Do you think that is a good idea in a workplace? I think so. This is something unique to America, and it is one of those days where we try to rally behind the underdog to look for the Cinderella team. Folks that the lot brackets went to see how they did with her coworkers. It's a great chance to look over and see how things are going, and spark conversation with folks in the workplace. I think you even have the idea that you could have catered lunches. Sure. Embrace it and bring the employees together. It is one thing to look at the law -- loss of productivity, but the gains an employee morale can be -- outweigh that. I should ask you, are you in a bracket? Are you in the office pool? I am in all kinds of brackets. There is more than one. There is a lot for folks to stay in touch with. I have several different strategies for each one. But, yes, I have one that is really going to pull through for me. Sped up who are your favorite teams and Hoover went? My favorite team are not in the tournament this year. I don't have developed my heart and pick them to go to the final four in Houston. I think Michigan State looks pretty good. I always like to put my weight behind Tom Nemec in a tournament. I think they may be able to load up. It is wide open with your. This is a unique tournament in just about any in the top 20 what up. Have been talking about March Madness, it's effect on work productivity and morale. My guest has been Scott Minto, he is director of the sports program at San Diego State University. Scott, thanks for coming in. Thanks so much for having me.

March Madness is taking over at small companies that are letting employees watch the NCAA basketball tournament while they work.

Staffers at the marketing company Phelps will be able to keep an eye on the games at their desks or on conference room TVs. CEO Joe Phelps said his 86 employees are hard workers, often staying late or completing projects on weekends, so he's fine if they work a little less hard during when games are on during office hours.

"If you hire the right people in the beginning who are motivated and productive, then we're past the time of measuring and having everyone with their nose to the grindstone all the time," said Phelps, whose company is based in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Playa Vista.

March Madness can be a distraction at many companies, especially during daytime games. The games are streamed online, and many people continually check scores on their smartphones. Productivity can slip, with an estimated $1.9 billion in wages paid to staffers who aren't working because they're preoccupied with games, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a company that helps laid-off people find jobs. And if everyone's watching a game at the same time, it can slow a company's computer network.

But many small businesses have found it's better to let staffers watch the games, and that output doesn't really suffer. They find that a little slack makes for a better workplace. And because the decision will likely be made by the owner, and not layers of executives as in a big corporation, the boss can just say, go for it!

Craig Barbee turns the NCAA into a party for the five staffers of his Raleigh, North Carolina, bookkeeping company. The first day, there's a barbecue with burgers and hot dogs, everyone brings in a side dish, and it's OK to stop working for a while.

"We normally watch the first half of the initial game together, and we leave a large TV on in the conference room so people can saunter in and out throughout the day to check scores," said Barbee, owner of Raleigh, North Carolina-based The Bookkeeper.

Like other bosses, Barbee acknowledges that his staffers work hard and are responsible, and that he can trust them to get their work done. But he also believes that because The Bookkeeper is located near schools that often make NCAA appearances — and Duke and three branches of the University of North Carolina are in this tourney — he can't expect anyone to ignore the games.

"College basketball is huge here," he said.

Many workers are interested because they're part of pools that bet on the games. The American Gaming Association, an industry group, estimates that 40 million people complete 70 million brackets, the printed or online forms fans fill in, predicting which teams will win at every level of the tournament. The more accurate fans' predictions are, the more likely they'll win money if they're participating in a pool.

Owners who want to forbid employees to watch games even on their phones are going to have a hard time enforcing an outright ban, said Eric Cormier, a human resources specialist with Insperity, a Houston-based company that provides HR services.

"If you can't beat them, join them. You're not going to stop people from watching just as you're not going to stop people from clicking on the Internet," Cormier said.

Moreover, trying to clamp down on workers is likely to be a morale buster, Cormier said, suggesting bosses instead use the tournament or events like the Super Bowl and World Cup soccer games to build camaraderie and a positive atmosphere.

"Try to embrace it and create opportunities around it as a way to get people to be closer — people who wouldn't normally mix together," he said.

Some companies aim for middle ground to get work done and still allow workers to see the games. At SchooLinks, which operates a college application website, CEO Katie Fang will invite the seven staffers to watch the last quarter of televised games together.

"Our team will be able to focus on their work knowing they'll get to watch the good part," said Katie Fang, CEO of the Austin, Texas-based company. She also plans to take everyone out to a bar to watch Friday afternoon games.

Joe Silverman realized last year he was losing productivity to the tournament as the 20 staffers of his computer repair company kept checking their phones for scores. His solution was to allow them to have the games on the big-screen TV he had installed for customers — and to let them know they do need to focus on their tasks at hand.

"When there is work to perform, they know to listen to it in the background," said Silverman, owner of New York Computer Help, located in Manhattan.

He'll keep an eye on the games too.

"I'll watch when it comes to the end of the half and the end of the game," he said.

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