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Oklahoma workplaces brace for 'March Madness'

Annual NCAA tournament cost businesses $1.2 billion or more in unproductivity nationwide, studies show. Meanwhile, office pools are illegal in Oklahoma.
by Paula Burkes Modified: March 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: March 11, 2014

The employees of Delta Dental of Oklahoma plan to gather for refreshments Monday afternoon and fill out and submit individual brackets for a com-panywide contest to see who can choose the champions of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, which tips off on Tuesday.

“We’ve never done this before, but anticipate it being great fun for our some 100 employees,” Delta Dental spokesman Tom Searls said. The winner will be awarded two tickets to an Oklahoma City Thunder game and runners-up will receive Thunder jerseys and T-shirts, Searls said.

Meanwhile, the three staffers at Oklahoma City-based Group & Pension Planners Inc. collectively are completing a team bracket to see if they can “beat the boss,” said the boss, Wayne Pettigrew.

Winner gets a free lunch, Pettigrew said.

As some Oklahoma employers are planning such fun, morale-building events, others across the state and nation are bracing for the inevitable dip in productivity resulting from “March Madness.”

Productivity blocked

With an estimated 50 million to 100 million Americans participating in office pools or related activities, companies stand to lose at least $1.2 billion for every unproductive work hour during the first week of the tournament alone, according to calculations released Tuesday by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. in Chicago.

John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said “You have employees talking about which teams made or didn’t make the tournament. You have other workers setting up and managing office pools,” Challenger said. “Of course, there are the office pool participants, some of whom might take five minutes to fill out a bracket, while others spend several hours researching teams, analyzing statistics and completing multiple brackets.”

“Finally, Thursday and Friday bring the actual games, which typically begin during the work day,” he said.

“Companies may be able to prevent unplanned absences related to March Madness by serving a catered lunch on the first two days of the tournament,” Challenger said. “Others,” he said, “may want to have a couple of televisions around the office showing games, which might keep some employees from streaming games at their desk.”

Not technically legal

Philip Bruce, an attorney with McAfee & Taft law firm in Oklahoma City, reminds state employers that office pools — whether they’re for the NCAA tournament, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby or any other sporting event — technically are illegal under state law. And, depending on how the pool is conducted and if it’s sponsored by the employer, it can violate multiple state and federal laws, Bruce said.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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During work

•6.8 million visitors watched online streams during the first week of last year’s tournament, spending an average of one hour and 51 minutes online each time they opened a stream.

•86 percent of workers — or more than 100 million — will devote at least part of their workdays to updating brackets, checking scores and following games.

•An estimated 50 million Americans will participate in office pools.

SOURCES: 2013 report by Turner Sports;

2012 MSN survey and 2009 Microsoft survey

Companies may be able to prevent unplanned absences related to March Madness by serving a catered lunch on the first two days.”

John A. Challenger,
Chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas


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