March Madness Creates Cubicle Chaos

Remember this term: productivity leakage.

That's what March Madness is expected to cause in offices all across America until the NCAA basketball tournament ends April 3.

This year could be worse than ever with tournament host CBS offering free streaming video of the games on the Web for the first time.

According to a new Gallup poll, 41 percent of Americans consider themselves college basketball fans.

Millions will enter their picks in online contests. On the eve of last year's tournament, ESPN.com received 1,200 entries per minute, and it's expecting even more this year.

People go nuts about their teams and about their brackets and, ultimately, "those who don't have a rooting interest do it for bragging rights," said Joe Lunardi, an ESPN "bracketologist." "Who doesn't want to be able to walk down the hall in their office and say, 'Hey, I got the whole Final Four right?'"

Between the streaming video, the contests, and the office pools, March Madness is a 19-day distraction that some experts estimate will cost employers more than a billion dollars in lost productivity.

Scott Wingo, CEO of Channeladvisor, a software firm in North Carolina, has decided that if you can't beat them, join them. Wingo approved bringing a 42-inch plasma TV into the building, and this evening, the kegs come out.

"They can have their e-mail up while they are watching the game, and I am OK with that," Wingo said.

For fans whose employers are less understanding, CBS has installed a "boss button" on the streaming video that launches a fake spreadsheet when the boss goes by to create the illusion of actually being productive.

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