The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

March 19, 2014

Read before jumping into the deep end of NCAA pool

— Welcome to BracketRacket.

Think of it as one-stop shopping on game days for all your NCAA tournament needs. We'll have interviews with celebrity alums drawn from sports, entertainment and politics, plus occasional "bracket-buster" picks, photos, news, gossip, stats, notes and quotes from around the tourney sites — all of it bundled into a quick read that gives diehard fans and officer-poolers alike something to sound smart about.

So without further ado:

TAKE THIS JOB ... AND DUNK IT

The business of America is business, and the NCAA tournament is bad for business; ergo, the NCAA tournament is bad for America.

The outplacement firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas proved it by wasting a few hours again this year calculating how much U.S. employers could lose while employees (like this one, via wordpress.com: http://bit.ly/1fYuFac ) obsess over the tournament. In an annual report, the company set the figure at $1.2 billion for every unproductive hour.

"You have employees talking about which teams made or didn't make the tournament. You have other workers setting up and managing office pools. Of course, there are the office pool participants," Challenger's statement cautioned, "some of whom might take five minutes to fill out a bracket, while others spend several hours researching teams, analyzing statistics and completing multiple brackets."

Never mind that the math behind the estimate is fuzzy, or that both academic researchers and corporate managers who looked at the problem concluded the real numbers were considerably lower, mostly because employees tend to make up for lost time by working outside traditional hours.

So what should an employer do?

"Despite all of the scary numbers, Challenger suggests that employers not try to clamp down on March Madness," the statement added. "Initiatives to block access to sports sites and live streaming in order to boost productivity in the short term, could result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty and engagement."

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