Cost of March Madness: This Year’s Tournament Will Cost Employers $17.3B, $1B More Than Last Year

Published March 14, 2023

With news of layoffs soaring, American workers may feel disengaged and worried about their jobs. The upcoming March Madness tournament is the perfect way to reenergize workers and build morale among teams. However, employment and wages have risen over the last year, meaning this year’s tournament will cost employers an extra $1 billion this year at $17.3 billion, up from $16.3 billion in 2022.

“March Madness is a great way to connect teams, especially in the world of fully remote and hybrid work,” said Andrew Challenger, workplace expert and Senior VP of global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“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,” he added.

That said, rising wages and employment means this March Madness could cost employers up to $17.3 billion in lost productivity, the highest estimate for the tournament from the firm on record. According to the latest employment situation released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 160,315,000 Americans were employed in February, up 2.7 million from the same month last year, and the average hourly wage stood at $33.09.

“Layoff announcements are rising, the Fed is likely to increase rates aggressively to combat inflation. For companies that have experienced recent layoffs, the tournament can bring a welcome distraction to those workers currently experiencing survival syndrome,” said Challenger.

Challenger offered the following tips to use March Madness to build morale:

  • Designate a workstation to streaming games or give workers time to watch in the break room with colleagues.
  • Choose one game the entire office can watch live at the same time, both in-person workers and remote teams.
  • Offer an incentive for workers to fill out and share their brackets, such as a charitable donation and increase the amount if a large percentage of the company participates. Workers vote on the charity.
  • Offer individual prizes for top brackets, like gift cards, lunches, coffees, experience gift, or even PTO.
  • Include one bracket for each department for a team prize.
  • Encourage workers to wear team gear to both in-person and remote meetings.

About the Estimate

According to Challenger, this year’s tournament could cost employers $17.3 billion. The firm’s estimate is based on the number of working Americans who are likely to be caught up in March Madness, the estimated time spent filling out brackets and streaming games, and average hourly earnings, which, in February, stood at $33.09, according to the BLS.

A 2018 survey conducted by TSheets by QuickBooks found 48% of workers work on their brackets at work. That would mean 76,951,200 workers are participating in March Madness activities while at work. Using this figure multiplied by the average hourly wage, the games could cost employers $2.55 billion per hour.

A 2019 survey by OfficeTeam found workers spend 25.5 minutes per workday on March Madness-related activities during the tournament. If that holds true this year, across the 16 workdays between selection Sunday on March 12 and the championship game on Monday, April 3, workers would spend 408 minutes, or 6.8 hours, on March Madness-related activities at work. That would mean the tournament could cost employers $17,314,913,414.40


Key March Madness Stats


  • $2.55 billion
    Lost wages resulting from the possibility of 48% of all workers, or 76,951,200 people, spending at least one hour of one workday on March Madness activities ([160,315,000 X .48] X $33.09)
  • $17.3 billion
    Cost of lost productivity from the entire tournament


  • 160,315,000
    Preliminary total of nonfarm payroll employment in February (BLS), up 2.7M from February 2022.
  • Average hourly earnings: $33.09
    According to February 2023 preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Contact Colleen Madden Blumenfeld for more data or to set up an interview with SVP Andy Challenger.

Contact Challenger for Media Inquiries

Challenger's Media Coverage

March Madness will cost employers $17B this year as workers slack off

By Aislinn Murphy

Published on  March 17, 2023

Read full article here.

The cost of lost worker productivity for employers due to March Madness will reach an eye-popping amount this year, Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated. In the report released Tuesday, the global outplacement firm estimated that employers will see $17.3 billion in costs from lost productivity from workers distracted by college hoops. The figure accounts for employees doing things like brackets and watching games on the clock amid the more than two weeks’ worth of workdays in which the NCAA tournament coincides, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Challenger, Gray & Christmas said 2023’s figure marks a $1 billion increase from the prior year – and a record-high. Senior Vice President Andrew Challenger noted in a press release, however, that March Madness “is a great way to connect teams, especially in the world of fully remote and hybrid work.” “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,” Challenger said.


Nearly 68 million Americans expected to wager on March Madness

Read full article here.

It almost goes without saying that nearly everyone who places a bet this year is bound to lose money. Employers may also be losers: The tournament will cost companies a total of more than $17 billion in lost productivity as workers tune in to the games, executive recruiting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated this week.


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