March Madness causes productivity losses, but can be a gain for culture

The annual tournaments may dampen employee output but can be a win for workplace camaraderie and engagement.

By Kacey Larsen      
March Madness can be a gain for culture

March Madness is officially underway. The 2022 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament will work their way from 68 teams to one winner on the courts in New Orleans and Minneapolis, respectively. And WalletHub reports there will be $13.8 billion in corporate losses due to unproductive workers during the tournaments’ run.

Other workplace-related highlights from WalletHub’s March Madness analysis are:

  • The average worker spends six hours watching March Madness games.
  • 56% of millennials are willing to miss a work deadline to watch.
  • 50 million people participated in bracket pools, and 29% of March Madness fans participate in office pools.
  • 81% of human resource professionals say their organization doesn’t have a policy addressing office pools.

While many of those stats likely don’t endear March Madness to employers, employees enjoy the camaraderie the tournament generates. WalletHub reports 78% of employees say celebrating March Madness at work boosts morale, and 89% agree that office pools help build better relationships.

Fisher Philips, a labor and employment law firm, recommends employers “embrace the madness” and shares four ideas for how to embrace the workplace culture opportunities.

  1. View the tournament as a team bonding opportunity. Have a watch party or happy hour to watch a game together, especially if the company has many alumni from a certain university.
  2. Hosting a company-wide bracket challenge can bridge the gap between employees and company leadership. Anyone could win, and employees enjoy the banter and relationship-building opportunities.
  3. However, be careful to not organize pools that involve cash prizes, which may be illegal or have limited exceptions in some states. Organizing a voluntary competition without any monetary investment by employees is one solution as is setting up a pool that awards company-sponsored prizes for the winner(s).
  4. Look for opportunities to include and engage employees who are less interested in basketball itself. Consider hosting a team spirit day, where employees can dress to represent their favorite team or decorate their workspace.