The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Business

March 16, 2013

Hotcakes and hotshots

Workplaces flip out over March Madness

ANDERSON, Ind. — At Community Hospital Anderson, the higher-ups are going mad.

They’re trading their suits and ties for aprons — cracking eggs, sizzling bacon and flipping pancakes onto a thousands-high, not-so-short stack.

It’s insane. It’s crazy. It’s March Madness.

CHA’s employee breakfast is a years-long tradition, originally called ‘Hotcakes for Hotshots’ to tie in with the hospital’s March Madness NCAA college basketball tournament celebration. This year, president Beth Tharp and her vice presidents are also being put into a tourney-style bracket, with employees’ votes inching them closer and closer to running a to-be-determined obstacle course.

The employees “get a kick out of it,” Tharp said. “We try to schedule (events) as well as we can, so employees can enjoy them and still get their work done.”

But during March, other businesses aren’t so lucky, as tourney-happy employees slough paperwork and assignments to fill out brackets and watch games on T.V.

According an annual report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., March Madness will cost American companies an estimated $134 million in lost wages over

the first two days after this year’s March 17 tournament kick-off, also known as “Selection Sunday,” when the brackets and seeds are released to the public.

Challenger estimates 3 million employees — 66 percent of all workers — will spend one to three hours following their favorite teams instead of working.

At Anderson’s Carter Express, about 30 to 50 employees compete for fun and bragging rights, said first-shift logistics supervisor Chris Nunley.

“It doesn’t affect productivity because the brackets are taken home and filled out,” he said.

But it might not matter, either way.

Whether employees go March-Mad on or off the clock, Challenger said, “March Madness will not even register as a blip in the overall economy.”

Many employees save looking up box scores and highlights for their off hours. Others do work at home to compensate.

But employees who do talk tourney at work might see positive effects, Nunley said, including improved teamwork and morale.

“It gives employees a chance to share a passion for a sport,” he said. “It’s the competitive nature of March Madness that gets people excited to watch even if you don’t like basketball.”

In 2010, 41 percent of executives surveyed by OfficeTeam said they thought college basketball playoff celebrations — including brackets, watching games or participating in pools that don’t involve money — positively impact employee morale. Another 22 percent thought they had a negative impact.

But the proof’s in the pudding, Tharp said. Or, in Community Hospital’s case, the pancake batter.

“Working here can be hard; You spend a lot of the day around sickness,” she said. “If we do little things like letting employees wear their team colors or serving them breakfast, it adds some fun to the day.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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