Beware the Madness of March: Brackets Bust Worker Productivity

It’s no secret that college basketball’s biggest event distracts workers and strains IT departments throughout the country. Here are some tips to curb (or take advantage of) March Madness in your office.

Selection Sunday is in the books. The brackets are set. But how ready is your organization for the NCAA Division I men’s college basketball tournament, which begins this week and runs through April 8?

Nearly one-third of employees spend three hours or more watching NCAA tournament games during the workday, according to a survey released last week by Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc., an outplacement company. During the first two days of the tournament, organizations will suffer roughly $134 million in “lost wages” as an estimated 3 million employees follow the action, the survey said.

Aside from the obvious effects on productivity, what other risks could March Madness pose to employers?

There are some legal risks related to gambling on college sports, said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray, and Christmas. “If you’re worried about gambling, you should ban outside pools that involve financial incentives for the person who wins,” he said. “Or if your office is hosting a pool, you could decide to give out an award to remove the monetary ramifications.”

When it comes to technology, organizations—smaller ones in particular—could have concerns about how streaming video will affect their networks. Some will completely ban sites that allow streaming, while others throttle back speeds to discourage employees from visiting them, he said.

For those who allow video streaming, Challenger offered a few tips to get through the madness.

Put TVs in the break room. Give employees a place to come together to watch the games while they’re already away from their desks eating lunch. “It can also reduce the strain on the network,” he said.

Address the abusers. “If you notice certain individuals who are taking advantage of the privilege, talk with them individually and address it that way,” Challenger said.

Give and take. You might notice that those one-hour lunch breaks are getting pushed to the limit and beyond, but if employees continue to get their work done, maybe you let it slide, said Challenger. “Look for ways to encourage people to get their work done after the games are over. But make sure they continue to meet expectations.”

Embrace the madness. “Sometimes we think the cost of employees watching games is a good buy when you look at the outcome of bringing people together and having happy employees,” Challenger said. “Some groups might encourage staff to wear team gear. Or if there’s a local team or they have a strong alumni network, [employers] get involved that way. It’s important to reach out to your employees and engage them in these kinds of events.”

What’s your March Madness policy? Tell us in the comments.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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