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March 19, 2014 / Brad Squibb

March Madness: How to boost morale without losing productivity

With the annual NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament quickly approaching, talk around the water cooler is likely hotter than ever. March Madness is one of the nation’s most popular sporting tournaments, with an estimated 50-million Americans participating in March Madness office pools.

This begs the question: Does the NCAA tournament cause productivity levels to take a hit?

The answer is yes, to the tune of 1.2-billion dollars in lost productivity, according to estimations from the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. What’s more shocking about this number is that it is based on workers dedicating as little as one working hour to the tournament – filling out a bracket, one could assume. The calculation does not account for the workers who watch games or participate in other March Madness-related activities at work.

No one wants to be the manager who bans all the tournament fun from their workplace – after all, it boosts morale and brings together teams that otherwise may not have interacted. To keep productivity high while the games heat up, consider these three ideas:

1. Sponsor a company-wide pool
Rather than having different pools scattered across different department, why not sponsor a companywide pool and encourage all employees to enter? Free or low-cost pools can keep workers focused while boosting camaraderie and morale immensely. Make sure employees know they don’t have to be a college basketball enthusiast to participate.

2. Beware bandwidth issues
As more employees stream games online, a company’s bandwidth can quickly suffer. Slow Internet and tech systems mean lower productivity. It’s wise to remind employees of your company’s policy about live-streaming video. Consider setting up a viewing room, or place live-stream video in the break room so employees can catch a bit of game during their break times.

3. Circumvent unwanted absences
Rather than losing employees to long lunches or sick days that fall on important game days, give them the option to use PTO or make up time so they can catch the game and still get important work done. Another idea is to offer a long-lunch reward for employees who make a particular job-related goal. On big game days, you might even opt to cater lunch and set up a viewing room for employees – morale will soar and you’ll be keeping workers in-house so they can continue working when their break is complete.

Let the Madness begin!