How Much Will March Madness Cost Businesses?

March Madness is officially here. The college tournament is one of the biggest sporting events to take place during the year. Intense rivalries and bracket challenges can turn even the most casual fan into a face-painting trash-talker. It can also bring the office to a complete standstill.

With the first round tipping off this week, productivity is set to take a timeout. According to outplacement firm Challenger, Gary & Christmas, March Madness is expected to cost American companies at least $134 million in “lost wages” over the first two days of the tournament, as 3 million employees spend one to three hours following the basketball games instead of working. The figure is based on government statistics indicating that American workers earn an average of $22.38 per hour.

Dow 15,000? S&P 1,600? Searching for market direction? Reduce information clutter and uncover key insights and investment ideas. Click here for Your Stock Investor Cheat Sheet Now!

Although this sounds like a significant amount, it fails in comparison to other economic headwinds such as the fiscal cliff or sequester.

“At the end of the day, March Madness will not even register as a blip in the overall economy. Sequestration is going to have a far bigger impact. Will March Madness even have an effect on a company’s bottom line? Not at all,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer. “But, if you ask department managers and corporate IT managers, March Madness will definitely have an impact on the flow of work, particularly during the first week of the Tournament. Starting the day after selection Sunday, people will be organizing office pools, researching teams and planning viewing parties.”

A separate survey released by MSN and Impulse Research finds that 66 percent of all workers will give in to the madness during work hours. Twenty-percent expect to spend one to two hours following the games, while 16 percent claim they will spend five hours or more watching games instead of working. Seven percent of those polled said they scheduled time off from work to watch the games, while 12 percent admit to calling in sick in past years.

Dow 15,000? S&P 1,600? Searching for market direction? Reduce information clutter and uncover key insights and investment ideas. Click here for Your Stock Investor Cheat Sheet Now!

Technology is making it easier than ever for fans to stay up-to-date. The NCAA, CBS Sports (NYSE:CBS), and Turner Sports have partnered again to offer live streaming March Madness coverage. Last year, the tournament drew over 220 million visits, averaging about 2.2 million visitors per day. With coverage expanding to Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system, along with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, the number of visitors is likely to rise this year.

However, Challenger does not expect the March Madness to penalize bottom lines. Productivity is difficult to measure because many employees work in teams and produce reports, memos, and ideas, instead of widgets.

“Thanks to the same technology that makes watching March Madness from one’s desk possible, today’s workers can work from anywhere at any time. Many will simply get a little more work done before or after the tournament to make up for any slowdown when games are on during office hours. In the end, March Madness will have little if any impact on employers,” he concluded.

Don’t Miss: Which Tech Players Rule the Internet?