Given that the NCAA tournament officially starts on Thursday, we thought it appropriate to focus on March Madness and what it means for employers, including some general recommendations and observations. In an article published today, CNBC estimated that employers could lose up to $4 Billion in lost revenue this week, the opening week of March Madness, due to employees focusing on games and their brackets. As an avid college basketball (and therefore March Madness) fan who will be focused on the games, I have no doubt that the struggle will be real for employers this week.
On the other hand, organizations that choose not to embrace March Madness could nonetheless face increased costs when it comes to employee monitoring. The less tangible but perhaps more damaging effect might be the impact on employee morale. Let's face it, do you really want to be "that" employer, the anti-March Madness company?
With that being said, it is still important to make sure that your workers are getting work done and that the week is not a total bust for your organization. The best way to do this is to plan ahead - these are some recommendations for how you can balance work productivity with the positive aspects March Madness can have on other aspects of employment and the workplace.
- Set some ground rules and communicate them to your staff. Employees generally do better when they have an understanding of what is/is not permissible and what reasonable expectations of them are.
- Consider having timeouts or viewing periods when staff can watch games and/or discuss their brackets. Alternatively, you can offer an extended lunch or break period or host an onsite viewing. If you are able to show games on a company television, that is generally better than having employees stream it on the internet because streaming does cut into your bandwith.
- Foster friendly competition. If appropriate (depending on your business), allow staff to wear their team's apparel and/or decorate their work space.
- If possible, try not to schedule significant meetings or project deadlines during this time.
- If you're going to allow office pools, be sure that participation is voluntary. Keep in mind that office pools where money is paid to participate (and as a prize) are a form of gambling, which is illegal in most jurisdictions. It is also a best practice not to allow higher-level executives and managers to participate in the pool/bracket.