Place your Bets: Why it pays to let employees engage in March Madness
As advancing teams prepare for the next round of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, it's not just team coaches and fans who are anxiously awaiting the results of upcoming games. Employers are also wondering how all the hype and excitement surrounding the tournament will impact their operations and employee productivity levels.
After the cancellation of March Madness in 2020, many American workers were excited to get back to the fun and friendly competition of office brackets. And although the tournament did move forward this year, cancelled games and other COVID-19 restrictions have made the NCAA bracket picks more challenging than ever.
According to outplacement ﬁrm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, millions of Americans working in the private sector participate in pools conducted (either ofﬁcially or unofﬁcially) at their place of employment, and the ﬁrm contends that each hour these employees spend perfecting their brackets or watching games while at work will cost employers $13.3 billion in lost employee productivity.
In the past, we’ve covered how employers can combat losses in employee productivity. But while some employers might itch to ban ofﬁce pools and the mention of March Madness altogether, G&A Partners’ director of Corporate HR Bonnie Scherry says “not so fast.”
“G&A Partners has whole-heartedly embraced the NCAA tournament,” she says. “We organized a companywide bracket contest, encouraged employees to dress in their team’s colors, decorate their desks (in office or at home) and even have our employees engaged on our social media pages promoting their favorite teams. For those now back in the office, we’ve set up a TV in the break room for employees to watch the games during their lunch breaks.”
All of this, Sherry says, is in the name of employee engagement and “there are certainly beneﬁts for organizations who take advantage of the increase in employee engagement during the tournament.”
Reasons to Embrace March Madness in the Workplace
- Increased camaraderie
The tournament really encourages employees to talk and engage with other employees. They learn about common interests they may share, which helps build relationships across departments and locations. It also gives management a topic of conversation to discuss with employees to better get to know them. Casual conversations like these can lead to other conversations about business that might not have otherwise happened.
- Equal chances of winning, regardless of your place on the organizational chart
Employees at all levels compete on the same level in a bracket challenge. And employees always get a kick out of it when their team “beats” an executive’s favorite team or they score more points than their manager. This also helps foster relationships across the organizational chart and creates opportunities for conversation that may not have happened otherwise.
- Employees at all business locations can get involved
Many companies that have multiple locations—especially those with locations all across the country or the world—struggle to find activities that engage employees in all ofﬁces. A bracket competition, ofﬁce pool, or similar activity such as March Madness (which is conducted virtually) allows every employee to participate regardless of their location.
- It can help relieve stress and potentially prevent burnout
Workers certainly can use a well-deserved breather from the consistent stress and anxiety of the past year, says Andrew Challenger, workplace expert and senior vice president of Challenger, Gray, and Christmas.
“Employers should use this positive, shared experience to build much-needed morale for their workers," he says. “Most work teams are battling burnout right now, and a break from the pressure in the form of the tournament may help ease that burden."
- Happy employees make happy customers
Sherry says any decrease in productivity caused by the tournament is temporary at best and is offset by perhaps a more important metric: happy employees. And happy employees make happy customers. Not to mention, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“Employers should ask themselves whether they want to be known as the company that tells their employees they can’t participate in March Madness activities,” she advises. “In the end, employees will still watch the games on their phones or tablets whether their employers approve or not, just like many employees still access social media sites even though they’ve been instructed not to.”
G&A Partners, one of the nation’s leading professional employer organizations (PEO), has been helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, take better care of their employees, and enjoy a higher quality of life for more than 25 years. To learn more about how G&A Partners can help your business, schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable business advisors.