HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Do Major Sporting Events Actually Boost Productivity?

Sports and work often don’t mix well together. The best example of this may be the Super Bowl.

super bowl

Editorial credit: Jeff Bukowski /

As Chris Morris wrote for Forbes in February—a couple of days before Super Bowl LIII—“A study from Captivate’s Office Pulse estimates companies will lose $484 million in work productivity on Super Bowl Monday, the day after the NFL championship game.”
The study found that 5% of professionals planned to take that Monday off altogether, while an additional 3% said they expected to show up late. Along with that, 12% said they expected to be hungover.
But not all sporting events are created equal from a productivity standpoint it would seem. According to a Robert Half study, 72% of managers say college basketball playoffs—aka March Madness—improve employee morale. And 52% go so far as to say they see productivity gains from March Madness activities.

What’s the Difference?

Neither Forbes nor Robert Half attempts to compare the productivity effects of the Super Bowl and March Madness, but one possible reason for the differences may be the nature of the sporting events. The Super Bowl has a “party” feel to it. It takes place on a single Sunday evening and is often associated with Super Bowl parties.
By contrast, March Madness takes place over multiple weeks, with games taking place throughout the week as opposed to only on weekend nights, for example. And while people may certainly get together to watch favorite teams and alma maters with friends, March Madness doesn’t have quite the same party mentality as the Super Bowl.

Play by the Rules

Robert Half suggests that employers can encourage March Madness activities while still maintaining or even boosting productivity.
“Many companies recognize it’s impractical to try to downplay the office buzz around major sporting events like March Madness,” said Stephanie Naznitsky, Executive Director of OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half. “Organizing activities tied to sports can provide welcome distractions that help lift workers’ spirits and engagement.”
Naznitsky adds that it’s important that employees just play by the rules and make sure work remains the top priority.
It’s hard to completely separate employees’ work and professional lives. Major societal events, such as sports, are often shared experiences that a large segment of your employees can relate to. They therefore serve as a bonding subject, which can boost morale.
The key to that bonding? Making sure it doesn’t come at the expense of official responsibilities.