Millions prepare for unofficial, March Madness two day work holiday

Students line up outside the Zona Zoo line at the McKale Center hours before the team’s final home game against UCLA. The Bruins defeated the ‘Cats 77-72.

The unproclaimed two-day work holiday, the first two days of March Madness, will soon be upon us.

Millions across the country will wait to see when the first upset will happen, which team will emerge as this year’s unforeseen Cinderella story, and which team will be the first to pull off a crazy, last minute comeback in the final minutes, all while hoping their brackets don’t bust.

Millions will still go to work at schools, factories, and businesses all over the country, but will anyone actually get work done or even attempt to? Most will be glued to television sets, laptop streams and their smart phones, taking in the first round games of the tournament.

Though studies show the unproductive work days result in financial losses for companies, employers have become accepting of it. After all, they’re into the excitement March Madness as well. The tradition has swept all across the country.

In 2015, an estimated 40 million Americans filled out over 70 million NCAA tournament brackets, with $9 billion being wagered according to the American Gaming Association.

Careerbuilder.com found that 15 percent of workers were planning on participating in March Madness office pools in 2015, up 11 percent from 2014 according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In 2016, the marketing company fund up to 20 percent of workers participated in office pools.

The company estimated that employers could lose up $1.3 billion each hour of the workday as a result of a loss in work productivity, but on the positive side, studies have also found that the March Madness craze leads to employees bonding and feeling more together.

A 2011 study, “March Madness, office gambling and workplace productivity issues” found that March Madness “helps create cohesiveness and emotional well-being among employees.” 65 percent of employees in the study agreed March Madness helps employee relations in the office.

Heather Altman is an accounting professor at the University of Arizona. She was born and raised in Tucson. Both her parents attended the university. She doesn’t miss a moment of March Madness.

Altman previously worked as the accounting manager for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. She says tournament days were spent watching the games and keeping up with their brackets. Work was not a priority.

“When I was in the workplace, if it was ever tournament time, you would walk around and people were streaming the game on their work computers, just everywhere,” Altman said.

“When I used to work in public accounting, whenever the tournament was on, we would take really long lunch breaks or go somewhere to watch the game. That time is definitely really important to this community.”

Altman has given up class time in many instances to stream games live for herself and her students.

She originally got the idea when teaching a summer school class during the World Cup, and. A number of students in her class were huge Mexico soccer fans, so she would stream the end of games.

Two years ago, when Arizona was playing in the Pac-12 Tournament, she did the same for her class and sacrificed lecture time.

“I noticed that there was probably 10 minutes left in the half, so it was enough that I knew it wasn’t going to take up the whole time,” Altman said. “I knew for the most part everyone is sitting their with their phone or computer, and their probably going to be watching or trying to keep up with their phone anyway.”

Brandon James is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact him at brandonjames@email.arizona.edu.

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