Could this be the best job perk ever? Warren Buffett is giving every one of his employees the chance to win $1 million a year, for life. All they have to do to get the cash is pick every winner in the first two rounds of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
The challenge, which Buffett has dubbed the “ultimate office bracket contest” is open to all employees of Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiary companies, which include Geico, Helzberg Diamonds, Fruit of the Loom, and Heinz. To win the jackpot, a person would need to correctly pick the winner of each of the 48 games leading up to the Sweet 16. There’s no fee to enter and anyone who’s employed at one of Buffett’s companies as of March 1, 2016, is eligible to participate.
Even if no one is lucky enough to predict each team’s path to the Sweet 16, someone will still take home a pretty nice prize. The person who picks the “greatest number of consecutive games correctly” will pocket $100,000, Buffett said.
“Somebody’s going to win the $100,000 for sure,” the Berkshire Hathaway CEO told CNBC.
Yet chances are Buffett won’t end up having to cut one of his workers an annual $1 million check. The odds of someone predicting the winner of each game in the first two tournament rounds are vanishingly small. For reference, of the 48 million brackets submitted to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge over the past six years, only one managed to get even the first round of 32 picks right.
This isn’t the first time Buffett has been involved in a March Madness bracket challenge with a big prize. In 2014, Quicken Loans offered $1 billion to the person who created a perfect bracket in that year’s NCAA tournament, with the big prize insured by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. No one took home the jackpot in the much-hyped contest, which is hardly surprising when you consider the odds of winning were 9.2-quintillion-to-1.
Even if no one wins Buffett’s bracket challenge, he’ll take a financial hit in a different way. American workers are notoriously unproductive during NCAA tournament season. In 2015, companies across the United States lost as much as $1.9 billion because their employees were filling out their brackets at work or streaming games, according to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. You can bet anyone participating in Buffett’s office pool will be spending some of their working hours thinking about their picks.
Despite the dip in productivity, employers might want to take a cue from the Oracle of Omaha and embrace the March Madness spirit, even if they aren’t able to offer a $1 million prize.
“When even the president finds time to fill out a bracket, an employer would be hard pressed to come up with a legitimate reason to clamp down on March Madness activities,” John Challenger, the CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said. “Any attempt to do so would most likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity. If anything, employers should embrace March Madness and seek ways to it as a tool to boost employee morale and engagement.”