March 18, 2013, 1:42 PM — To ban or not to ban? The question comes up every year as March Madness approaches and companies fret about the potential for sluggish networks and lost productivity if employees tune in to games played during work hours.
IT staffing specialist Modis asked 502 IT pros how they're preparing for tech-related issues that might arise as the NCAA's college basketball tournament gets underway next week. About one-third (34%) said they'll take some action to prepare for March Madness, including banning March Madness video, throttling video feeds or blocking content altogether. In the bigger picture, 48% of respondents say their company already takes action to block, throttle or ban the streaming of all non-work related content in the workplace.
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However, the rules don't necessarily apply to all employees, Modis found. When asked about restricting March Madness content, 66% said they'd make an exception for the head of the company (CEO or president), and 52% would do the same for senior employees. Just 12% of IT pros said they'd make an exception for themselves.
Looking ahead, IT pros think streaming restrictions will get tighter. Among the respondents whose companies currently limit or block streaming content, 29% think their policies will become stricter over the next two years, while just 4% think they'll become more relaxed, Modis says.
Meanwhile, HR experts continue to debate whether or not March Madness is a huge productivity drain. Two recent surveys come to dramatically different conclusions.
The alarmist angle: An estimated 3 million employees will spend one to three hours following March Madness basketball games instead of working, a distraction that will cost American companies at least $134 million in "lost wages" over the first two days of the tournament, declares outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
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For those looking to justify a more hands-off approach: 75% of senior managers surveyed by staffing service specialist OfficeTeam said March Madness activities in the workplace (such as watching games or participating in pools) have zero impact on employee productivity. Another 16% said March Madness activities have a somewhat positive or very positive impact, and just 9% said the impact is somewhat or very negative.
Back in the IT trenches, tech pros say events like March Madness can mean putting in extra hours, according to the Modis survey. At one time or another, to prepare for potential network burdens, 46% said they've had to work overtime; 45% have skipped lunch breaks; 34% have worked during vacation; and 30% have worked overnight.
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