March Mad­ness is upon us, and there is no avoid­ing it. Selec­tion Sun­day, when the NCAA Divi­sion 1 Men’s Bas­ket­ball Com­mit­tee announces which 68 teams made the 2019 tour­na­ment, is March 17. Games begin with the First Four on March 19 and 20 and cul­mi­nate with the Final Four April 6 and 8.

While this annu­al event can impact pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, employ­ers may find that the pos­i­tive effects it has on team engage­ment and cama­raderie out­weigh any neg­a­tives. Con­sid­er these facts from both sides of the coin:

  • An esti­mat­ed $1.9 bil­lion is lost in work­place pro­duc­tiv­i­ty dur­ing a typ­i­cal March Mad­ness tour­na­ment. (Chal­lenger, Gray & Christ­mas)
  • Employ­ees will spend 25.5 min­utes per work­day on March Mad­ness, for a total of 6 hours spread over the 15 work­days when games will be played. (OfficeTeam) This includes time spent by 76 per­cent of employ­ees who admit to check­ing scores dur­ing work hours and 53 per­cent who watch or fol­low sport­ing events on their com­put­ers while at work. (Rand­stad)
  • As much as $3 bil­lion will be bet on work­place brack­et pools dur­ing March Mad­ness this year. (Ford­Har­ri­son) About 40 per­cent of work­ers say they have par­tic­i­pat­ed in col­lege bas­ket­ball brack­ets in their offices, with an aver­age of $22.44 con­tributed to the pools. (Rand­stad)
  • Near­ly 9 in 10 employ­ees said par­tic­i­pat­ing in NCAA brack­ets at work helped build team cama­raderie, and 73 per­cent said they look for­ward to going to work more when they are part of an office pool. (Rand­stad)

So how can an employ­er embrace the fun of March Mad­ness while enforc­ing the rules it may push the lim­its of? Whether you view the tour­na­ment as a minor dis­trac­tion that cre­ates an oppor­tu­ni­ty to boost morale, or as a poten­tial pit­fall of legal lia­bil­i­ty, missed dead­lines, and dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomers, the ball is in your court. Here are five ways to max­i­mize the pos­i­tive aspects of March Mad­ness while min­i­miz­ing disruptions.

  1. Have fun: Make it clear to your employ­ees that you want them to enjoy work and March Mad­ness while not let­ting the tour­na­ment put a full court press on their work. Encour­age employ­ees to wear their favorite team’s cloth­ing and/or dec­o­rate their work­space in their team’s colors.
  2. Watch togeth­er: Put tele­vi­sions in break rooms so that employ­ees have some­where to watch the games oth­er than the inter­net. That way, con­nec­tiv­i­ty is not slowed and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty lost even for those not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Mad­ness activ­i­ties. Pro­vide snacks for the viewers.
  3. Be care­ful with brack­ets: Orga­nize a com­pa­ny-wide pool with no entry fee to avoid eth­i­cal or legal issues sur­round­ing office gam­bling. Give away a com­pa­ny gift to the pool win­ner that is not cash. Keep the brack­ets post­ed and updat­ed in the break room.
  4. Be flex­i­ble: Allow work­ers to arrive ear­ly so they can work a full shift and still leave in time to see big games that over­lap the end of their shift. Con­verse­ly, allow­ing employ­ees to delay their start time the morn­ing after big games may help reduce absenteeism.
  5. Fol­low the rules: Review applic­a­ble com­pa­ny policies—such as gam­bling, use of per­son­al elec­tron­ics and com­pa­ny com­put­ers, and work and break hours—with your employ­ees before engag­ing in any March Mad­ness activ­i­ties at work, so it will be clear to all what is con­sid­ered acceptable.

Deter­mine how March Mad­ness fits with your busi­ness cul­ture and cus­tomer deliv­er­ables. If employ­ees are get­ting their work done, cus­tomers are hap­py, and the biggest prob­lems are reduced inter­net band­width or a lit­tle more noise in the cubi­cles or lunch­room for a cou­ple of days, it’s noth­ing but net. (See what we did there?) Decide how you’ll be play­ing this before the open­ing tipoff and the Mad­ness begins!

by Rachel Sobel
Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed on