The NCAA college basketball tournaments, otherwise known as March Madness, are right around the corner. The “First Four” games are slated to kick off March 17–18, 2020, which is just the beginning of this 3-week event. If you’re concerned that your employees will be spending more time filling out their brackets instead of being productive, you might want to think again.
New research by Robert Half reveals that March Madness may actually help improve workplace morale, despite your concerns about productivity. But hey, a happy workforce is a productive workforce, right?
According to the research, three in four professionals (75%) said their company organizes activities to celebrate sporting events like March Madness. Of those respondents, 78% feel these festivities improve their on-the-job morale. Participating in friendly competitions and partaking in themed snack breaks or potlucks were cited as the most impactful activities among workers who reported a boost in spirits.
Employees may also engage in sports talk during the college basketball playoffs. In a separate survey of professionals, the amount of time respondents said they spend discussing nonwork topics with colleagues averaged 34.25 minutes per day. During sporting events like March Madness, for example, which spans 16 workdays, this could be the equivalent of 9 business hours per employee.
“Employers can win big by organizing festivities that capitalize on the excitement around sporting events like March Madness,” says Stephanie Naznitsky, Executive Director of OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half. “Giving staff the freedom to watch a game or chat about scores together, for example, can go a long way toward building a more cohesive team and positive workplace culture.”
“To keep productivity on track, managers need to clearly communicate policies regarding nonwork activities.” Naznitsky adds. “Employees should make sure they’re staying on top of tasks if they engage in sports celebrations and request time off in advance if they want to fully enjoy the tournament.”
Additional findings include:
- More men (86%) than women (67%) at companies that organize sports-related activities feel the gatherings improve on-the-job morale.
- In the separate survey of professionals in 28 U.S. cities, respondents in Phoenix (40.65 minutes), Miami (40.64 minutes), and Nashville (38.41 minutes) spend the most time each day discussing nonwork subjects.
- About one-third of men polled (34%) identified major sporting events as the most popular nonwork topic of conversation in the office, versus 11% of women.
Tips for Staying Productive
Having an engaged and happy workforce does wonders for the employee experience, but workers must stay productive during events like March Madness. Rob Wilson, employment trends expert and President of Employco USA, shares the following tips to keep your workers on track during sporting events season.
Offer computers for personal use. “Make sure that you are keeping a close eye on your employees’ Internet usage,” says Wilson. “Any time employees have free, unfettered access to the Web, you are going to be looking at a decrease in employee productivity.”
“Here’s an alternative: Offer your employees one to two computers for personal use during their breaks,” he suggests. “Make sure the computers are in a public area and have a sign-in sheet to ensure that everyone will get a fair chance to use the computers and that people do not use them for extended periods of time.”
“That way, if anyone needs to check their personal e-mail or use the Internet on their lunch break, they don’t need to use their official work computers,” Wilson adds.
Put televisions in the break room. “Again, rather than having employees use their computers or phones to check the score, provide a television in the break room or similar area,” Wilson recommends. “Allow employees to use the T.V. to tune into the games on their breaks, but again make sure that you have a sign-in sheet so that everyone can have a turn, whether they want to see a March Madness game or watch Days Of Our Lives.”
Send out a companywide reminder about in-office betting. “Depending on the state where you work, in-office betting could actually be illegal,” Wilson says. “Even if it is not illegal, I would advise that companies have a no-gambling policy, including office pools or any other communal stakes. Send out a company-wide reminder during this time to refresh employees’ minds and ensure that no March Madness takes place on company time.”
For those who do bet, take caution. “Some companies do allow betting, and if that is the case, remember that it is not a good idea for managers or higher-ups to take part,” he says. “Instead, make it for junior employees only and rather than betting money, make the winnings a gift card to a local coffee shop or even a bonus vacation day.”
Advise employees to ask for personal days in advance. “If you know that your employees are going to want to attend a game or watch it from their couches or favorite bars, now is also a good time to send out a reminder about asking for personal days,” Wilson says. “Remind employees that they need to ask for days in advance and that late call-ins could result in a penalty.”
While March Madness was something to be feared, when it comes to workplace productivity, keeping the above tips in mind should help improve your bottom line while keeping your workers happy and engaged. Go [insert your favorite college team here]!