Editorial: Productivity challenged this month

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 11:07 AM

Selection Sunday has arrived, a time of chaos and fervor that marks a rite of spring as signatured as azaleas blooming and a pollen color drenching everything in sight.

Granted, we’re not all into gardening, or the game brought to us by James Naismith. It’s true — CBS only profits. The network didn’t really invent it.

But come this evening, brackets will be finalized, office pools will develop and America will settle into an easy chair for three weeks.

If an annual study is to be believed, and we’ll admit up front to having our doubts, the tournament is going to cost American companies $134 million. That’s the estimate this year from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Each year the firm publishes the projection, warning of lost productivity in offices. Worth noting: the firm has history in helping “manage” plant closings for companies.

The same firm, back in 2009, gave a $3.8 billion estimate. The 2005 estimate was $889 million.

The calculations are from numbers of hours spent online, business days between the start and end of the tournament, etc. It is all seemingly very relevant.

Among others, The Wall Street Journal has poked holes in calculations and theories. But by the same token, the firm has likely improved its judgment abilities.

And it is an estimate. What is unquestionably difficult to estimate is how much lost worker time is already happening, including from online searches for shopping or Facebook or fill in the blank. The NCAA Tournament is just another avenue, a replacement to those “tasks.”

And remember, even though online discussions on the event may be 24/7, only a small percentage of the tournament is played during regular business hours. Most of it is at night and on the weekends.

Our bottom line is we feel there’s something to the Challenger firm’s estimate on losses, but there’s also plenty of room for error in an actual numerical figure.

One thing we’re not questioning. Here in this part of heaven, basketball is taken seriously, whether there’s a shade of blue, red or some other loyalty. And whenever our team’s playing, we’re going to be tuned in some how and some way.

And the boss is hoping it’s after 5.