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March Madness can improve office life, survey says

Tue, 03/23/2010 - 10:30am
TALI ARBEL - AP Business Writer - Associated Press

MARCH MADNESS AT WORK: College basketball watchers are tuning in to games online in record numbers, often during the work day — but many managers see that as a potential positive for the workplace, according to a recent survey.

During the first day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament last Thursday, 3 million unique visitors watched 3.4 million hours of on-demand streaming content online, according to CBSSports.com. That's the biggest traffic day ever for live sports on the Internet, and up 20 percent from the first day of the 2009 tournament, CBSSports.com said.

The most-watched hour was from 2 to 2:59 p.m. EDT — distracting plenty of office workers across the country.

A recent poll suggests some bosses see basketball frenzy as a workplace benefit, not a productivity drain.

Forty-one percent of randomly polled managers said employees watching games and signing up for office-wide pools could boost morale, according to a poll by OfficeTeam, a division of staffing firm Robert Half International Inc. Nearly half said tournament-related activities would have no effect on morale, while only 11 percent said they could hurt sentiment at work.

Only 22 percent of senior managers said the NCAA tournament would hurt productivity, while 22 percent said it would have a positive effect on office output. The rest said the NCAA tournament would have no effect.

Tracking sports may temporarily cut down on employees' output, but the feel-good benefits of organizing a fun group activity such as a betting pool could energize employees in the long run, said Robert Hosking, executive director for OfficeTeam.

"A lot of companies are looking for ways to give incentives to people that are not monetary," he said.

OfficeTeam polled 1,000 managers of companies with 20 or more employees from Jan. 11 to Feb. 8. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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LAST-MINUTE FILERS: Does nice weather keep you from filing taxes? Southern and Western U.S. cities are home to most of those slowest to send in their income taxes online, according to a data from tax preparation software maker Intuit Inc.

Houston had the most people filing 2008 returns from April 14 to 17 in 2009. The federal tax deadline is April 15.

Other Texas slowpoke cities were Austin, No. 4 on the list, and Dallas, No. 9.

California laggards were San Francisco, No. 5; San Diego, No. 7; and Los Angeles, No. 8. Other West Coast procrastinators were Seattle, the seventh-slowest city, and Las Vegas, the 10th.

The only two cities east of the Mississippi with large numbers of residents filing last-minute tax returns last year were Chicago, which was No. 2, and New York, which came in third.

The list is generated from data collected by TurboTax filing software made by Intuit.

It tracks the volume of people filing electronically through TurboTax, so cities with bigger populations and more residents connected to the Internet are more likely to show up on the list.

Intuit said about 18.8 million federal tax returns were filed using TurboTax in 2009. The IRS said 90 million tax returns were filed electronically last year out of 131.5 million total tax returns.

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