It's that time of year: March Madness is here!
Though many of us have commitments and responsibilities that will prevent us from being glued to the television screen, that won't stop Americans from frequently checking in with the NCAA Tournament. Numerous studies have shown it's going to happen whether employers and academic settings like it or not.
One study found that March Madness costs employers 3.75 million hours a day nationwide. Companies could see $134 millon in "lost wages" on the first two days alone. A survey conducted by MSN last year found that 86 percent of respondents plan to devote at least some time during work to track the games.
But there are ways you can follow the tournament discreetly and in moderation -- probably your best ways to avoid trouble. Here are five suggestions for anyone from employees to students:
(1) Use your phone: While employers and schools can exert control over your Internet access, they can't control your personal smartphone. There are official NCAA March Madness Live iPhone and Android apps that you can download to keep up with the games in real time. You might put your smartphone somewhere that allows for quiet checking, like under your desk, or even (if the sound is turned off) on your desk. You might also set up text alerts from something like ESPN ScoreCenter (iPhone or Android) so notifications are pushed to you.
(2) Use a tablet: Same as above, essentially, but with a tablet device. A convenient second screen (or only screen if you don't use a computer) for quick checking and alerts. It can do the trick.
(3) Conceal your screen: An alternative, if you can access the relevant sites to keep up with the games, is to purchase an anti-glare laptop or monitor screen-guard. You can find these on Amazon or go through a company, like ViewGuard, that specializes in them. These range in price but you can get one that is relatively inexpensive to do the job.
(4) Listen instead: Pop in some earbuds or put on your headphones for audio-only feeds of the games. It's a great way to follow along while you're working on something else. This might not work in every setting, but for some, it's a viable option. One of the easiest ways to find audio for the games is to check out TuneIn, which will have all of them.
(5) Follow through social media: For those of us who have jobs or spend time in classrooms that encourage the use of social media, this is a great option. Set up some hashtags to monitor, create some Tweetdeck columns, or put together an interest list on Facebook to keep up on all the latest developments. This year, @marchmadness will also be tweeting instant video replays of standout plays, so you'll still be able to see at least some of the action.
Since it's going to happen, John A. Challenger, chief executive of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement that employers should just embrace March Madness.
“Rather than try to squash employee interest in March Madness, companies could embrace it as a way to build morale and camaraderie," Challenger said, suggesting putting televisions in the break room as a place to watch games or setting up a company-wide pool (with no entry fee, to avoid ethical or legal questions).
Some places simply won't embrace it, though. A national telephone survey of 500 IT professionals determined that one-third of office IT departments are preparing to block, ban or slow down live-streaming March Madness content.
Do you have other suggestions or tips to keep up with the games? Feel free to leave a comment.