Personal Finance

March Madness takes a toll on productivity

Key Points
  • As they clamber to fill in tournament brackets, workers say March Madness is good for employee morale.
  • Yet corporate productivity losses during the month amounted to $6.3 billion last year.
Confetti falls as the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after defeating the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the 2017 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 3, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.
Getty Images | Christian Petersen

March Madness is here, which means there are billions to be won and lost at the office.

College basketball fans or not, many get in on the NCAA tournament known as March Madness — or at least try their hand at filling out a bracket.

A whopping 70 million tournament brackets were completed last year, amounting to about $10.4 billion wagered in total, according to a report by WalletHub. That's about twice as much as during the Super Bowl.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a long-time basketball fan, singlehandedly offered Berkshire Hathaway employees $1 million a year for life to anyone who guessed which teams make it to the NCAA men's basketball tournament's "Sweet 16."

Warren Buffett breaks down his $1 million March Madness challenge
Warren Buffett breaks down his $1 million March Madness challenge

But across the U.S., all that time spent on sports brackets instead of actual work has a serious impact on the bottom line. In fact, unproductive workers during March Madness amounted to an estimated $6.3 billion in corporate losses last year, WalletHub said.

A separate survey by Seyfarth Shaw at Work, a subsidiary of the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, found that March Madness ranked third among tech-related office distractions, directly behind texting and Facebook. The findings are from a poll of more than 400 managers and human resources specialists.

Although 81 percent of human resource professionals said their organizations don't have policies to police office pools, employees are happy to leave well enough alone. Ninety percent of workers agreed March Madness was good for employee morale, WalletHub found.

The NCAA will reveal on Sunday which 68 teams have made the cut for this year's basketball championships. The tournament starts two days later and concludes April 2.

More from Personal Finance:
NBA star Ben Simmons: College sports is a dirty business
How an NBA All-Star learned to be smart about money
Pitfalls of joining the office Powerball pool