NCAA basketball tournament 2010: Gotta watch, gotta work

In this economy, you can't let the NCAA basketball tournament sap your productivity. Here are five tips to watch and work.

Sean Gardner/Reuters
John Wall, guard for the University of of Kentucky, celebrated with fans after his team defeated East Tennessee State University in the first round of the 2010 NCAA basketball tournament March 18 in New Orleans. Kentucky is the No. 1 seed in the tournament's East region, but in this economy fans of the Wildcats can't afford to leave their work undone.

It's understandable: Employees get distracted from work during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. And that distraction carries a hefty price tag – $1.8 billion in lost work time, by one estimate.

That might be fine in good times. A whopping 92 percent of fans who watched games online during the 2008 March Madness tournament did so from work computers, according to Nielsen web-ratings data.

But this isn't 2008. Harried bosses aren't likely to look kindly on long lunch hours around a TV screen or idle chat about whose alma mater fell into what bracket. So you're going to have to get creative about getting your work done.

“Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to gauge the impact of March Madness on productivity in an information-based economy where workers possess portable technology that allows them to work from anywhere and any time,” says John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a global outplacement consultancy that tries to predict the tournament’s impact on workplace productivity each year. Still, he estimates US employers will lose $1.8 billion in worker time because the average employee wastes around 20 minutes a day on Madness-related diversions (sounds conservative to us).

To do our part to maintain productivity during this fragile time for workers, we polled our Facebook fans and perused Twitter to compile five tips for how employees can follow games and still stay on their bosses’ good side (it’s a tough job market after all).

5. Check the scores.

We know it’s tempting to watch games live on the Internet at work, but trust us, your spouse and college-bound children will thank you if you just say no to streaming.

4. Take a vacation.

If you’re lucky enough to have a few extra vacation days, use one to give yourself a college-basketball day in front of the TV.

“For my husband and me, the tournament is our biggest ‘holiday,’ ” Tiffany Morse wrote on the Monitor’s Facebook page in response to our question about NCAA multitasking. “We always take vacation days and watch all of the first two rounds with friends.”

Other fans who will rename nameless for the sake of the US unemployment rate, suggested calling in sick.

3. Make it into an office bonding experience

If everyone’s doing it, it’s OK, right? At the very least, they can't fire everyone. But consider yourself warned, the boss's support for this idea might directly correlate with the success of his team as the tournament progresses.

2. Boss button

Really and truly, CBS made a boss button for their live streaming website. So if you do decide to watch at work and suddenly the boss starts heading your way, one click will bring up a semi convincing work-flow diagram to hide the video feed. Best used for bosses with poor vision.

1. Two words: two computers.

This is our favorite idea, found on Twitter from Alex Tallitsch, vice president at Flapjack Creative, a digital branding company. A Wisconsin fan who’s got Kentucky going all the way, Mr. Tallitsch is using a laptop to live stream games and his desktop computer for work.

Would his bosses mind if they knew what he was doing?

“They’d laugh more than they’d yell,” he says.

Er, is Flapjack hiring?

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