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11% of people call in sick during March Madness. This year, many are already working from home.

Productivity lost during the basketball tournament may be different this year amid the ongoing pandemic that's got millions of Americans working remotely.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After a year off due to the coronavirus pandemic, March Madness is back.

But so much has changed since the last field of 68 teams took to the court for college basketball’s biggest tournament. 

Many transitioned to a work-from-home environment after the virus reached virtually every industry imaginable. Before the transition, however, those in a traditional office setting may have benefited from working from home during the tournament. Their employers may have as well.

That’s because there is a lot of wasted time thanks to the tournament, much of which is played during normal 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. working hours.

According to calculations from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a work outplacement firm, U.S. employers stood to lose about $13.3 billion in productivity during 2019’s tournament. Breaking down those numbers even further, the firm estimated that “each hour spent on the games at work" cost employers $2.1 billion.

That calculation includes time spent watching games, filling out brackets and discussing the tournament with co-workers.

At the time of those findings, Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that 48 percent of all workers, or 75 million people, would spend approximately six hours of work time on March Madness activities throughout the tournament. The average hourly earning for “all employees on private nonfarm payrolls” was $27.66. These numbers were used to come up with the $13.3 billion in lost productivity. WalletHub also backed this number.

All findings are not created equal, however.

A 2019 Office Pulse survey found that $604 million in productivity would be lost during the tournament. That’s a far cry from the $13.3 billion backed by Challenger, Gray & Christmas and WalletHub. However, it's important to note that each had different methods in coming up with a final number.

No matter how you slice and dice it though, during the tournament, there are a lot of employee eyes and ears periodically focusing on the games rather than their work.

Some people, however, decide to skip out on work altogether during the tournament thanks to, perhaps, a conveniently timed cold.

RetailMeNot joined forces with The Omnibus Company back in 2014 on a survey to find out how the tournament impacted the workplace. The survey found that more than 1 in 10 (11 percent) people called in sick to work to watch the March Madness games.

But, what about now? After all, our professional lives have been upended by the pandemic.

According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of U.S. workers, or 56 percent, were still working remotely full-time or part-time as of February 2021. It remains to be seen how the change in environment will impact productivity during this year's tournament. 

But, if you were one of the 11 percent of employees who would have called in sick but now find yourself working from home, you might be thinking about saving that sick day for when you actually need it this year.

And, if you’re going to keep that sick day in your back pocket, just make sure to get your work done!

If you need some help staying productive, try these six tips to keep you in the groove while working from home:

  • Prepare your workspace
  • Get dressed, stick to your routine
  • Take a break and stay active
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Wind down your workday like you normally would

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