NCAA March Madness = Lower Productivity

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NCAA March Madness = Lower Productivity

It's March Madness which means office pools, periodically getting the NCAA basketball tournament scores on the radio or the Internet during the work day. However, this year CBS Sportsline is offering free video streaming of the 56 basketball games in the first three rounds making it even more tempting to be a slacker while at work. I checked it out yesterday (yes while at work) and the video quality was pretty good. When you first pick a game to stream you go into a waiting queue and it tells you where you are in line. It said I was 19,432 in line. Ouch! I said forget that, I'll never get in. But noticed that every 30 seconds it updates the line queue and it dropped a few thousand, so I figured I'd wait it out. Sure enough I was in within about 5 minutes. The first game I picked was Boston College vs. Pacific, a really thriller going into double overtime. But wouldn't you know it, the video player said that due to "local airing restrictions" it was blacked out and I couldn't watch the game. Must be using IP address geolocation to figure out I lived near the Boston area. Technically, I live in Connecticut - in UCONN Husky territory (also my alma mater) and closer to the New York market than the Boston market, so this blackout algorithm seemed a bit overly strict to me.

So then I tried another game and was able to stream it. After watching about 2 minutes of the video & audio quality my curiousity was satisfied, I turned it off and I returned to work. But this got me thinking about sports fanatics that can't just "turn it off". I know several coworkers were worried they wouldn't be able to get their NCAA "fix" and check scores online since we use Websense, an Internet filtering software program to limit personal surfing, pornography, etc. We're not draconian about our Internet filtering - we do allow the sports category during lunch hours along with a 20 minute quota time that employees can use any time, which should be enough for anyone to check scores while not spending their entire workday "glued" to NCAA news coverage. Leveraging freedom + employee morale against employee productivity and abuse is always a challenge for any corporation.

Indeed my thoughts about employee productivity were confirmed by a USA Today article today which says, "As if the distractions of the March Madness tournament didn't bedevil bosses enough, advances in technology could reduce productivity to a crawl this year." It explains that free streaming video is affecting productivity in the workplace and adds "Then, there are the millions who plan on checking scores and contest pools online. The madness, which starts Thursday and concludes with the championship game April 3, is expected to have a significant impact on workplaces as perhaps no other major sporting event." According to the article, employers (as a whole) will lose $237 million in wages for every 13.5 minutes workers spend on the Internet tracking games.

The USA Today article states, "Everybody is in office pools. The games are on until I leave," says Graham Atkinson, principal of HR Staffing Solutions in Fayetteville, N.Y. He watches games on TV in his office and checks scores online. "You can't reach clients. You can't reach anybody. Many people just take personal days (off), and there's no question as to why. ... It takes over."

I wasn't the only one in the office experimenting with streaming NCAA basketball games. A coworker stopped by and said "Hey, did you know you can stream NCAA basketball games on CBS Sportsline?" I didn't ask him if he just did it for curiosity or if he actually watched the games, but it might explain why our Internet access was a little sluggish yesterday.

Ok everyone, come clean. How much time did you spend checking NCAA scores or streaming games while at work? Cleanse your soul and redeem yourself by confessing your sins in the comments section. :D

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