March Madness 2019: Why Employers Should Embrace It…To a Point

I’m always amused when employment lawyers trip over themselves each year at this time to blog about the risks of gambling and lost productivity with the always-popular NCAA basketball tournament. It’s akin to the famed quote from Casablanca when Captain Renault says in Rick’s Cafe, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

With March Madness upon us this week, it’s a near certainty that employees will chat about these games, debate the seedings and have a friendly office pool to boot. Far from being a detriment, employers should look upon the tournament as a good opportunity to boost morale and employee engagement. Granted, the stakes should remain reasonable—no $100 entry fees—but there are other incentives as well.

For instance, one blogger suggests a company could offer a free vacation day to the winner of the office pool and show that the company gets it. That incentive would certainly boost the engagement of many employees. And the lunch or break time discussions of everyone’s favorite team can do so as well.

Indeed, some surveys show that March Madness office pools actually boost morale and help employee productivity rather than harm it. What’s more, in this day and age of flexible scheduling, employees can make an effort to get work done ahead of time or else work late to ensure deadlines are still met if they are losing a little time here and there.

Of course, some common sense lines can be drawn. If your colleague in the next cubicle is spending two-and-a-half hours streaming the Duke vs. Palooka State game on his laptop, the employer need not look the other way as that’s not exactly a quick check of the scores.

But someone who would do that during the work day is likely a problem outside of March Madness time as well. As a former professor of mine once said, “Common sense is the least common of all the senses.”

Do you have any special concerns about March Madness in the workplace? And who do you think will win the tournament? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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