Embrace the Madness: March Madness Doesn’t Have to Zap Productivity

It’s called March Madness for a reason. With 64 basketball games played over three weeks, hours of air time, countless online commentaries and—the biggest cause of the madness—the bracket, it’s no wonder we’ve all heard that March Madness can kill productivity in the workplace.

In fact, a study from Chicago-based global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., found that March Madness could cost companies upwards of $1.8 billion in lost productivity annually. They claim that productivity suffers as employees build their brackets for office betting pools and watch live streaming broadcasts of the games during office hours.

While productivity can suffer during this time, March Madness is inescapable and inevitable; you may as well have fun with it, build camaraderie and show your company’s commitment to employee satisfaction.

Of course, it depends entirely on your business culture and customer deliverables.

Here are a few ways that companies use March Madness to create a positive work environment while managing the potential disruptions to work productivity:

  1. Make it clear to your employees that you like to have fun. You want them to enjoy work and the March Madness activities while encouraging them not to let March Madness “sideline” their work.
  2. Put televisions in the 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. Keep the brackets posted and updated in the break room.
  4. Organize a company-wide pool with no entry fee in order to avoid ethical or legal issues surrounding “office gambling.” Give away a company “gift” to the pool winner that is not cash.
  5. Allow your employees to wear their favorite team’s clothing and/or dress up their workspace in their team’s colors.
  6. Offer flexible schedules. On the days when tournament games are played during work hours, allow workers the opportunity to arrive early so they can work a full shift and still leave in time to see the games if it is important to the employee.
  7. Review company policy with your employees before engaging in any March Madness activities at work, so it will be clear to all what is considered acceptable.

Consider using March Madness as a way to give your employees a little extra attention to boost morale and employee retention.

If employees are getting all of their work done and customers are happy, it’s worth the decreased productivity for the positive employee relations it could create. If an employee fails to meet a deadline or customer service suffers as a result of March Madness distractions, you’ll need to take action.

The key is to find a way to maximize the positive aspects of March Madness while minimizing the disruptions to the business.