Benefits & Compensation News

March Madness: Turning a productivity drain into a morale booster

Next week marks the start of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament — more commonly referred to as March Madness. And while most employers dread the productivity dip that comes from distracted workers hanging on every game in the 68-team tournament, there are ways to make the most of the situation.

‘Madness’ by the numbers

Right now, scores of stories and reports are hitting the Web on just how much the tournament costs U.S. businesses in terms of lost productivity.

In fact, a study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. — a perennial source of info on the relationship between March Madness and workplace productivity — estimates that March Madness will cost U.S. businesses at least $134 million in “lost wages” during the first two days of the tournament. And an estimated three million employees will spend one to three hours watching those critical first round games instead of working.

In addition, recent polls by MSN and Impulse Research, which were cited in the Challenger study, corroborate Challenger’s March Madness findings. According to the polls, 66% of employees will be following March Madness during work hours. Of those workers:

  • 20% expect to spend one to two hours of their workday following games
  • 14% say they’ll spend three to four work hours watching basketball, and
  • 16% plan to watch the tournament for five or more hours rather than work.

Of course, these staggering figures only take into account the workers who are actually in the office. There’s plenty of employees who take vacation specifically to watch the games or, if that’s not an option, call-in sick.

What are your options

When March Madness comes around each year, managers and supervisors have several tactics for handling the situation. Problem is, most of these strategies are ineffective at best.

For example, some business do everything in their power to keep people from even thinking about the tournament, and go so far as to discipline workers who are caught checking their brackets on work time.

The problems with this approach are fairly obvious. For one, with the improved technology of smartphones and tablets, workers shouldn’t have too much trouble following the action in a clandestine manner. For another, it’s a waste of managers’ time to go through the day looking over staffers’ shoulders.

Other employers simply choose to ignore the issue. If you’re essentially going to take such a hands-off approach, why not spark up some goodwill in the process. Here’s what employment expert Mark Toth recommends: embrace March Madness by setting up TVs in key “gathering areas” and using the tournament as a bonding experience for employees.

This minor perk could go a long way toward bolstering morale in the workplace.

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