March Madness Will Cost Employers Billions in Lost Productivity

The upcoming tournament will result in an estimated $17.3 billion loss to employers.

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By Madeline Garfinkle

Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images
Kris Murray #24 of the Iowa Hawkeyes shoots the ball during the first half against the Auburn Tigers in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Legacy Arena at the BJCC on March 16, 2023 in Birmingham, Alabama.

It's called March Madness for a reason. The annual college basketball tournament that spans three weeks draws crowds to sports bars and ignites friendly competition among friends, family and coworkers as fans bet on their brackets. But no matter who you're rooting for, it seems there is one guaranteed loser in the tournament: employers.

A new report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that March Madness will cost employers $17.3 billion in lost productivity — up one billion from last year's number of $16.3. The estimate considered the number of Americans likely to keep up with the games and the approximate amount of time they'll spend filling out brackets and watching the tournament, then factoring in average hourly earnings — which as of February stood at $33.09, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, despite the estimated billions employers are expected to lose, the firm advises not to fight it, as the tournament can be good for morale and energy at work.

Related: 4 Reasons Companies Should Embrace March Madness Office Competitions

"Creating events around March Madness, whether watching games or filling out brackets together with incentives for the winner, makes the workplace more exciting, for both in-person and remote teams," says Andrew Challenger, senior VP of global outplacement and business at Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The firm recommends ways to boost morale and minimize losses during the tournament, including setting up a designated workstation to keep up with the games, offering worker incentives to fill out brackets, choosing one game that the entire office watches together (in person or remotely) and giving brackets to each department to compete for a prize.

Regardless of if you love it or hate it, there's no stopping March Madness, so you may as well lean in.

Related: Why You Must Stay Focused on Your Culture in Times of Economic Uncertainty

Madeline Garfinkle

Entrepreneur Staff

Editorial Assistant

Madeline Garfinkle is an Editorial Assistant at She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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