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March Madness 2020: The Ball is in Your Court | Pennsylvania Employee Benefits Team

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 2020 tournament, is March 15th. Games begin with the First Four on March 17th and 18th and culminate with the Final Four April 4th and the 2020 NCAA championship game on April 6th.

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

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