- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

CHICAGO, March 17 (UPI) — The annual college basketball "March Madness" could cost U.S. employers as much as $1.4 billion in lost productivity, workplace experts Challenger, Gray & Christmas said Monday.

The Chicago-based international outplacement firm says just 10 minutes a day spent on the NCAA tournament instead of job duties would cost employers an average $2.56 per worker.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a recruitment specialist best known for its monthly job survey tracking corporate layoffs, calculated the loss per employee by dividing the average national hourly wage — $15.38 — by the average amount earned in 10 minutes by the number of U.S. employees with college degrees, about 36.6 million.

The tournament stretches over 15 workdays.

While $2.56 per worker may not seem a lot, researchers said 10 non-productive minutes for the entire workforce of 135,907,000 totals $347,921,921. However, not all workers are interested in the annual orgy of college basketball so Challenger used the number of employees with likely old-school ties to calculate a potential loss of $93.8 million for every minute of tournament distraction.

Chief Executive Officer John A. Challenger said in a time of growing anxiety over war, terrorism and unexpected job loss, a little shared activity in the form of an office pool could only raise employee morale.

"If filling in brackets for an office pool or simply chatting about one's favorite team at the water cooler for 10 minutes or more provides some relief from the otherwise depressing state of affairs, then it seems worthwhile," Challenger said.

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