Let the Madness Begin - Managing March Madness That Is

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March Madness has once again descended upon the workplace: Selection Sunday is March 15. And the stakes are even higher this year with Warren Buffet's recent announcement that he will give $1 billion to anyone who successfully picks all 64 team brackets!! As someone who has only filled out a NCAA tournament bracket a handful of times, I'm not going to easily refuse to participate with that kind of offer on the table.

Unfortunately (or fortunately – depending on how your viewpoint), as a general rule, gambling is illegal in most states. The legality of office betting pools depends on state gambling laws, and each state differs. That being said, the likelihood of the government breaking down the door for your small office pool is slim to none. Although, we've all heard of the infamous January 2002 incident when a middle manager at AT&T in New Jersey was arrested for allegedly taking a 10% cut from an office football pool, which amounted to about $3,000.

AHEM! And now for some gambling statistics...

According to the 2013 Office Betting Survey by Vault.com, 70% of respondents participate in an office betting pool, while 81% of respondents knew of a co-worker who did, and 79% of respondents believed it was appropriate to engage in such behavior in the workplace and during work hours.

The survey also shows that sports dominate office pools with 69% of respondents admitting to filling out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket and 60% of respondents betting on the Super Bowl. The most common non-sporting betting event was a co-worker's pregnancy due date (17%) followed by awards shows (8%) and shows like American Idol (4%).

So what are you to do? Embrace March Madness, ignore it, or manage it?

The ball is truly in your court to determine how March Madness fits with your business culture and customer service demands.

If you do decide to embrace the "madness", here are a few ways that companies use the games to create a positive work environment while managing the potential disruptions to work productivity.

  • Make it clear to your employees that you like to have fun and want them to also enjoy work and the March Madness activities while encouraging them not to let Mach Madness "sideline" their work.
  • Put televisions in the break rooms so that employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the Internet. This way, connectivity is not slowed and productivity lost even for those not participating in the Madness activities. Provide snacks for the viewers.
  • Keep the brackets posted and updated in the break room.
  • Organize a company-wide pool with no entry fee in order to avoid ethical or legal issues surrounding "office gambling". Give away a company "gift" to the pool winner (not cash).
  • Allow employees to wear their favorite team's clothing and/or dress up their workspace in their team's colors.
  • Offer flexible schedules. On the days when tournament games are played during work hours, allow workers the opportunity to arrive early so they can work a full shift and still leave in time to see the games if it is important to the employee.
  • Review company policy with your employees before engaging in any March Madness activities at work, so it will be clear to all what is considered acceptable.

Decide how you'll be playing this before the opening tipoff and the Madness begins!

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Guest June 28 2017
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