Economy not affecting March Madness at the office

 
 
  • UCLA practices at the men's NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia. The economy apparently has not had an affect on the annual NCAA tournament office pools, according to experts.

    UCLA practices at the men's NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia. The economy apparently has not had an affect on the annual NCAA tournament office pools, according to experts. Associated Press

Published: 3/20/2009 12:01 AM

The economy is in the tank and the threat of layoff looms large at companies across the country.

So, are Americans worried they'll sink the household budget if they plunk down that $5 on the office NCAA pool?

The answer apparently is no.

About 18 percent of Americans this year - roughly the same as the 19 percent of last year - say they'll participate in their office pool, according to a survey by careerbuilder.com

When outside-the-office activities are added in, about 45 percent of Americans plan to participate in some sort of NCAA pool, according to an msn.com survey.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing, according to Challenger, Gray and Christmas, a national outplacement firm based in Chicago that opted this year not to do its annual assessment of how much productivity the annual pool costs businesses.

"In light of the fact that employers and employees have more important things to worry about, we feel that any attempt to estimate the impact of March Madness on productivity would be counterproductive and inappropriate. We hope to continue this lighthearted look at the intersection of sports and the workplace once the economy is on surer footing," said Chief Executive John A. Challenger in a prepared statement.

Instead of fretting about such minuscule time-wasters, Challenger suggests that companies either look the other way or embrace the annual ritual as a way to boost morale.

Suggestions include holding an officially sanctioned office pool, where the proceeds go to charity (so as not to run afoul of gambling laws) or the winner gets a gift certificate to a restaurant.

In Wisconsin, a trio of lawmakers has taken it a step further, submitting a bill that would make small-time NCAA pools legal, provided all participants are from the same company, the administrator didn't financially benefit, and the entry fee was $50 or less, according to news reports.