Human Capital & Careers

March Madness Maddening to Employers

Annual NCAA tournament estimated to cost U.S. companies $1.4 billion in lost productivity; winning the pool doesn't get it back. Plus: CFOs favorit...
Lisa YoonMarch 19, 2003

That basketball pool currently circulating around your office might be more expensive than you think.

According to a survey by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, U.S. businesses lose about $1.4 billion each year in worker productivity because of the NCAA basketball tournament.

How did they come up with that figure? Like this: If each of America’s 36.6 million workers who graduated from college — and who make, on average, $15.38 an hour — spends ten minutes a day discussing the latest hoop happenings for the full run of the tourney (15 days), $9.3 million a minute goes down the tubes.

That’s a big number, but employers shouldn’t see it as an total loss, say experts at Challenger. Instead, think of it as a necessary distraction. “If filling in brackets for an office pool or simply chatting about one’s favorite team for ten minutes or more provides relief from the otherwise depressing state of affairs,” CEO John Challenger told the Associated Press, “then it seems worthwhile.”

CFO’s Favorite Employee Excuses

For finance chiefs, lost productivity isn’t nearly as acceptable when staffers extend it to the other 50 weeks of the year. One major complaint from CFOs: tardy workers.

So what do employees tell their bosses when they show up late at the office? Accountemps recently polled CFOs on their favorite excuses for employee tardiness. As it turns out, the mea culpas from adult workers aren’t much better than the excuses offered up by third graders.

For instance, survey respondents said employees often blame their dogs for their late arrivals. The excuses vary, but all stick to a four-legged theme: the dog swallow my car keys, the dog won’t come in after being let out, or the dog blocked me in the driveway.

Once on the road, respondents said late employees claimed near misses with mountain lions, bears, and moose.

Breakfast is another root cause of tardiness, according to the survey. One worker told the boss that the line at Starbucks “was out the door.” Another caffeine-craving employee managed to order a latte, only to have “the waitress spill it on me.”

Some of the employee excuses were downright outlandish: One worker told a CFO: “I was kidnapped by aliens.”

Other excuses were downright baffling. “The wind was blowing against me,” one tardy worker noted. Others apparently felt honesty was the best policy: When one finance chief asked a worker about showing up late, the employee responded: “I felt it was better to sleep in at home versus sleep at the office.”

“While these examples are humorous, they address a frequent challenge for managers,” says Accountemps chairman Max Messmer. “An employee’s habitual tardiness can affect the productivity of the entire team and overlooking it reinforces the behavior.”

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