March Madness Wastes Less Office Time Than Daydreaming


1SaleADay, a Miami deal-a-day company that sells (among other things) watches, jewelry and electronics, permits Madness, but only in moderation. Eli Federman, senior vice president, says he got fed up some time ago with what the calls his employees' "frolicking outside the work context."

He stopped that by replacing office access to Facebook with access to an in-house platform called Yammer, which permits interaction only with other company employees.

Federman's employees can talk about March Madness during the workday, and he encourages them do so, as a way to build camaraderie and boost morale. "When they're excited, they work better," he says.

But they cannot play March Madness in the office. He views it, because of its sports-focus and finite duration, as less pernicious than social media, which he calls "a vortex of social mayhem" designed to seduce the idle.

Tom Lutz, author of "Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers and Bums in America," sees two truths about March Madness: Everybody slacks off from time to time, and slacking off may make us more productive:

"All of us find ways to slack off," Lutz told ABC News. "Right now, I am talking to a reporter about March Madness, instead of taking care of things I should have done weeks ago."

Communal forms of slacking -- water-cooler chats are the classic example, he says, although they probably have been replaced by texting -- aren't just important for morale, Lutz says.

Studies show them to be important for innovation and productivity, as well. "March Madness brackets falls into this category," he said.

Very few people, Lutz says, can sustain peak productivity throughout an eight-hour work day. Nor is that a problem, because lost time can be a potent motivator. Nothing so promotes efficiency or concentrates the mind than the realization that you're about to miss a deadline.

For that reason, he said, "Lost time is very rarely lost."

No matter how complex our cultural play or gaming might become, he says ("March Madness can get into some very high-order statistical analysis"), nothing will ever incinerate as many billable hours as good-old daydreaming. "It can happen mid-sentence, it can happen as we open a file, and it is undetectable by any monitoring device," he said.

Compared to time spent daydreaming, time spent on March Madness is "a drop in the bucket." And, in his view, the Madness promotes morale.

It's "a great way to feel part of a group that is on a shared mission," Lutz said, "rather than fantasizing about never having to see any of these people again as long as we live."

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