The March Madness Effect: Why Loss of Worker Productivity Isn’t a Bad Thing

The March Madness Effect: Why Loss of Worker Productivity Isn’t a Bad Thing

For most sports fans, the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness) is one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year. People from all walks of life and organizations big and small take time at the beginning of March to participate in the craze. From filling out brackets to researching the 10th level of player stats for bubble teams, even casual fans tend to take their predictions seriously.

Why is it so serious? Well, March Madness can garner you big bucks through workplace pools and sports betting, especially if you have that inside knowledge about a Cinderella team poised for a huge run! An estimated $10 billion (!) will be bet on the tournament and only 3% of that will be wagered legally.

Despite the questionable (and arguably outdated) illegality of workplace pools, it is one of the main draws to watching the tournament. People not only love watching underdogs stories in the tournament, but they love winning the office pool because of the underdog. (And if you’d like a slice of the pie, chances are your workplace will host an office pool. Over 50 million people are expected to fill out tournament brackets for March Madness.)

In 2016, more than $4 billion dollars were lost in productivity to the opening week of March Madness. It’s no small wonder that so much money and time is lost when this past year’s tournament was the most-watched in 22 years, according to Nielsen.

Worker productivity is going to nose dive, but that’s okay! Let’s take a look at why it isn’t such a bad thing that your employees or coworkers are enjoying March Madness at work. In fact, your company could stand to benefit from it.

Boosting Morale is Critical to Fostering Productive Employees

Many sporting and cultural events such as the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and March Madness are awesome ways to bring people together. It provides an opportunity to discuss a shared experience that just about everyone can relate to. This connection helps increase camaraderie and engages employees with each other when they may not have had a reason to do so beforehand. This can build relationships between departments that rarely speak to each other and create cohesiveness within your organization.

One of the beautiful things about creating a March Madness bracket is that the whole process is quite egalitarian. No one truly knows who is going to win each game, so even people who are casual fans could hit a lucky streak and take home the office pool. This fact is powerful for an organization because it reminds everyone that they are on a level playing field. (Plus one of the true joys in life is beating your boss’s bracket!)


Not All Hours Are Created Equal

It’s not always the hours worked but the quality of the hours worked that defines an employee’s productivity. Most Germans work only 28 hours per week on average, yet they are 70% more productive than hard-working countries like Greece (42 hours a week). Burned out employees are more likely to quit especially when there’s no work-life balance.

Flexibility seems to be the key to having happy employees. Cultivating a work-life balance for employees has been repeatedly shown to increase overall job satisfaction and productivity. Thus encouraging workplace participation in events like March Madness can help alleviate stress and put a little fun back into work.


What Can a Manager Do About Productivity During March Madness?

With so many viewing options (more on that in a moment), it is inevitable that at least one person in your workplace will be sneaking in a couple games while on the clock. These events are obviously a little different than making small talk or internet browsing. Distractions are a routine part of work, so administering a zero-tolerance rule will quickly send your employees to the door. Therefore, it is important to set guidelines and expectations.

If you want to encourage March Madness participation but don’t want your employees to be glued to the game action, you can allow for tracking the games’ progress instead of watching video streams. Your employees should be expected to take on work when asked of them and this option allows for them to quickly check a score without being disruptive.

Another concern is that employees may want to take time off work in order to attend a game or watch a game live on TV. You can allow employees to alter schedules or coordinate with other employees about coverage for customer service and projects. It boosts employee morale if you are clear in your communication about whether or not you are flexible about participating in March Madness.

Ultimately, even if you want to avoid the drop in productivity from March Madness you can still encourage employees to dress in their team’s colors or discuss the games. This is a good way to meet in the middle by creating a festive atmosphere that allows people to partake while still being productive. And as always, sportsmanship between employees is critical. Some people may have a bit of a competitive streak that could hurt feelings if left unchecked.

Organize a potluck. Decorate the office. Set up a TV in the breakroom. Encourage everyone to fill out a bracket just for fun. The key is happy employees. Happy employees mean more productive employees. So let’s watch our favorite teams march through the tournament now that the madness has begun!


How to Watch the Tournament Live

If you are planning on going full tilt with March Madness in the workplace, we have a comprehensive list of how you can watch the games at work. Just don’t hold us responsible for the 6 hours of work lost!

Traditional Television: You can watch all of the games live on TV via a cable subscription package. The games are broadcast on CBS, TBS, truTV, and TNT. For a complete list of the TV schedule, visit the NCAA website for dates, times, and networks they’re broadcast on.

Live Streaming: Do you have a cable subscription (or a friend’s) but can’t watch the games at home? You can mobile stream all 67 games via the NCAA March Madness Live app by logging in to the app with your cable subscription credentials. If you just want to try out the app, there is a three-hour preview before you have to log in.

All March Madness games broadcast by CBS are free to watch on the web with or without a cable subscription. The games beyond the “Elite Eight” will be broadcast on TBS, so you will need to find another way to watch the complete tournament if you are sans cable.

Cord Cutters: In order to stream without a cable subscription, you can use CBS All-Access to watch CBS broadcasted games for free. Unfortunately, for complete tournament access, you will have to purchase a “cable substitute” such as Hulu, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, or Sling TV. All of these services offer all of the CBS and Turner-owned channels where the games will be airing, plus they have mobile streaming options for your phone or tablet.

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