Attention Bosses: Your Employees Need to Watch March Madness

Last Updated Mar 17, 2010 11:30 PM EDT

Every March we read the same stories, quoting the same economists, lamenting the arrival of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship tournament. Businesses will lose billions, they say, as workers troll the Web for deeper understanding of the Pythagorean calculation for expected winning percentage. And that's before the games actually start, whereupon they'll spend the next two days at their desks glued to streaming video highlights and Java-based game-casting apps--if they're not at the corner pub taking a 150-minute "lunch."

To that we say, Lighten up, Mr. No-Fun Econ Prof. Take off your propeller beanie, grab a molded-plastic break-room chair, and pass us the guacamole. March Madness is actually good for business. Here's why:

Reason #10: A happy worker is a productive worker, right? Who do you think is happier: someone whose bosses use industrial-strength nanny software to keep him from checking a score, or someone whose bosses pretend they don't hear a thing when he screams "Yes!" after a buzzer-beating three-pointer? What you lose in productivity will be more than recouped over the course of the year.

Reason #9: Sports metaphors are the lingua franca of business, so watching sports is nothing if not research. Never again will you hear a marketer likening your product team to "a basketball player knocking one out of the park."

Reason #8: She wears $500 power suits and runs the legal department. He wears coveralls with his name written on the pocket in cursive and works in the warehouse as an Assistant Shipping Manager. And now they're not just nodding hello in the hallway, they're huddled over a conference table debating the merits of Tennessee's 1-2-2 full-court press. Beats a trust fall any day of the week.

Reason #7: Ever heard of Winthrop University? Wofford? Robert Morris? Just think of all the smart, ambitious, talented young execs you've been missing out on because you weren't familiar with their Podunk schools. Now, after you ride their upset train to the Sweet Sixteen, the resume of that Wofford grad just might catch your eye.

Reason #6: Gambling is illegal in this country. But if your corporate headquarters were located in a parallel universe where pretty much every company in parallel-universe America had an office pool in which people put up $10 or $20 for a chance at winning a few hundred or more -- well, there's nothing wrong with taking home a fat roll of parallel-universe Andrew Jacksons, is there?

Reason #5: Even in the real America, bragging rights are perfectly legal.

Reason #4: For 11 months of the year, the Ivy Leaguers feel superior to the state-schoolers. But for four glorious weeks, the Air Jordans are on the other foot. That's a between-the-legs, behind-the-back, two-handed reverse dunk for corporate morale.

Reason #3: The Post-It note was invented after a 3M chemist trying to create a new type of glue found that his adhesive wasn't nearly sticky enough. Velcro was the result of a Swiss engineer taking hikes in the Alps and coming home covered in burrs. And we all know about penicillin. So who's to say your company's next big hit won't be the accidental result of a computer programmer trying to find an algorithm that predicts when conditions are optimal for a 12-seed to take down a 5?

Reason #2: More time goofing around on the Net watching sports equals less time goofing around on the Net looking for porn equals fewer sexual harassment lawsuits.

Reason #1: The CEO got his MBA at Duke. Duke always manages to choke somewhere around the Elite Eight. A happy worker is a productive worker, right?