Odds are good that your employees and/or supervisors will have a March Madness office pool during the NCAA basketball championship tournament.
If not, you’ve probably worked somewhere where such activities have had the tacit — or open — approval of the top brass. Is that a good or bad thing for company culture?
Never mind the fact that the pools are rarely used for “entertainment purposes only.” Although wagering in office pools (and fantasy sports leagues) is technically an illegal activity in some states, the laws are rarely — if ever – enforced. In most states, the typical $5 to $20 office pool is legal.
A bigger, more practical concern: presenteeism.
Easy to spot, hard to stop
If you were to take a random walk around your office and glance at people’s computer screens, chances are you’d find more than a few folks who have game reports open in one Window and their work in another. Want to guess which screen the employee pays more attention to? Yup.
One estimate says March Madness will cost employers nationwide $1.7 billion in lost productivity. This time of year, many employees (and supervisors) are paid to do little more than check on how the teams in their office pool are doing in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Truth be told, even if your organization bans office pools, many employees will sneak glances at the scores, anyway. But people are more open about goofing off — and spend longer doing it — when they participate in a pool at work. Many supervisors simply look the other way.
The typical reason given for allowing office pools is that the activity boosts morale and employee bonding. In reality, the morale-building advantages depend on your company culture and the demographics of your workforce.
One recent survey found that 30% of professional and business service employees eagerly look forward to participating in an annual March Madness pool at work. On the flip side, only 13% of employees in the hospitality industry expressed interest in the activity.
Gender also comes into play. Roughly 24% of male employees said they’re likely to participate in an office pool, while 11% of women do.
Bottom line: Some workplaces wouldn’t miss the pool if it disappeared. In others, the long-term morale boost of employees looking forward to the yearly pool cancels out the short-term productivity hit.