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March Madness at work

Marie Havenga • Mar 21, 2019 at 12:00 PM

March Madness is invading the workplace, and some employees don't have to jump through hoops to watch the games.

With visions of basketballs dribbling in their heads, many workers, some with the blessing from their bosses, are keeping tabs on their brackets and final scores.

Jake Hogeboom, founder of @Home Realty in Grand Haven, said his company welcomes March Madness viewing.

“We've got multiple TVs throughout the office,” he said. “We always try to have the games on.”

The first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins at noon Thursday.

Hogeboom played point guard for the Michigan State University Spartans from 2003-04 before transferring to Hope College. But he said that he still bleeds green and white.

“March is my favorite time of year because of basketball,” he said. “We like to celebrate it and have some fun with it. We do a bracket pool for everyone, and it's basically me against everyone (in the company). Whoever beats my bracket gets company merchandise or $20 or $25. Last year, I did really bad and it cost me about $1,000.”

The 100-plus employees who make up the local real estate business still seem to get their work done, Hogeboom says.

“The games are on, but you're usually catching bits and pieces between meetings and phone calls,” he explained. “In our industry, when we've got meetings and showings, we can bounce out and bounce back.”

That may be true for @Home Realty, but a report last year from CNBC.com said that “all that time spent on sports brackets instead of actual work has a serious impact on the bottom line.” Unproductive workers during the tournament resulted in an estimated $6.3 billion in corporate losses in 2017, according to WalletHub.

Also in the CNBC.com report, a survey by Seyfarth Shaw at Work found that March Madness ranked third among tech-related office distractions, behind texting and Facebook.

Hogeboom said he doesn't record any of the tournament.

“I'm a live guy,” he said.

Hogeboom said the atmosphere at his office is loose and friendly, to the point that “corporate” is considered a cuss word.

“We like to have fun in our office,” he said. “If it's not March Madness, it's something else. It's always fun to do things that bring people together. If you can't have fun while you're at work, it's not worth it. They always have cell phones on them. They can check brackets and do all that fun stuff. As long as our staff can still get done what they need to get done, they can have free range and do what they need to do. It's a fun time of year.”

Dr. John Hall, who operates Hall Family Chiropractic in Grand Haven, is a born and bred Purdue Boilermaker. He's not shy about showing his alliance in his office.

“Everyone that walks in the door sees a Purdue ‘P’ on the wall,” he said. “There's a Purdue ‘P’ in between the adjusting rooms and office.”

Both Hall and his wife, Stacy, graduated from Purdue University in 1995.

Hall said he prays March Madness tournament times are outside of office hours, but he doesn’t worry much if they’re not.

“If it's during office hours, we don't hide it much,” he said. “We have XM Radio, and I'm listening to the Purdue game. Everyone in the office is following with me. If the game is on, patients will walk in and ask if they're up or down.”

During March Madness, his third-seeded team is the topic of office conversation.

“There are people that have asked to watch,” Hall said. “I'll bring my phone back with me. If there's a family I'm adjusting, they'll have my phone watching the game. They'll pass the phone back and forth. We don't hide it in our office.”

Hall said patients have come to expect the thrill of March Madness at his office.

“The type of practice we have, I think people would be like, 'Dude, why isn't the game on?'” he said. “The atmosphere we have in here is such a family atmosphere, they all laugh about it.”

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