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Editor at Large

Where's my NCAA bracket?

If the Super Bowl were held on a Monday afternoon, very little work would get done in America's offices, factories and other workplaces – restaurants and bars excluded, of course.

Now imagine March Madness, the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Sure, it’s not as big as the Super Bowl, but it’s a cultural spectacle in itself, and the first three rounds of March Madness are held during workdays: Thursday and Friday – even during the daytime.

That, in turn, can cause distractions at work, according to a national survey by OfficeTeam, a staffing service affiliated with Robert Half International.

But does it hurt productivity?

Not in most cases, according to the survey of 300 senior managers at U.S. companies with at least 20 employees who were asked about the impact of March Madness activities in the workplace – such as watching games or participating in pools.

Only 14 percent of the managers said the effect was negative, while 63 percent said there was no impact and 22 percent said there was a positive effect. (The positive effect is linked to teambuilding and enhancing morale.)

That last number of 22 percent, however, is a drop from the 2015 survey, which showed that 36 percent of managers believed that March Madness activities boosted productivity.

The downward trend could be associated with the many ways that workers can follow the NCAA Tournament. In the past, they could do so only by watching on television. Today, besides the TV, there are smartphones, desktop computers and laptops to check scores and sneak a peek at the games.

In general, 38 percent of office workers surveyed said they are distracted at work by major sports events, not just March Madness and the Super Bowl. That is up from 20 percent in 2011, and no doubt tied to the upgrade in technology that most Americans now enjoy.

“When sporting events are enjoyed in moderation, employees get a chance to bond and take occasional breaks, which helps them stay motivated in the long run,” says Brandi Britton of OfficeTeam and who is based in the Los Angeles area.

OfficeTeam offered some things that employees can do during March Madness, which this year begins March 15:

-- Let your boss know in advance if you’d like to take time off during the tournament so he or she can manage workloads.

-- Find out company policies on employee breaks, personal Internet use, workplace decorations and sports attire.

-- Take quick breaks to check scores or talk about games with colleagues, if allowed, but stay on top of work responsibilities.

-- Cheer on your favorite teams without getting overly competitive.

For more on the survey, click here.

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