It’s Baaaaack! Time for March Madness

It’s time for that almost-springtime distraction again: March Madness!

As you are probably aware, a lot of employees like to make brackets for the annual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament, which often involve wagers or office pools (official or unofficial). According to statistics recently released by WalletHub, it’s estimated that:

  • Companies will suffer $4 billion in losses due to lack of productivity during March Madness.
  • In 2016, approximately $9.2 billion was wagered on the NCAA tournament.
  • Eighty-one percent of HR professionals say their organization has no policy addressing office pools.

In addition, a 2015 study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas found:

  • More than 60 million Americans fill out brackets. The majority of participants will do at least some work on their brackets while on the job.
  • Many games are played during work hours. Unfortunately, many employees will watch these games while at work.

So what should those of us in the HR world do about March Madness? There are a lot of issues to consider. For example, there can be bandwidth problems if employees use office networks to watch games. Consider whether you want to allow this and what the impact will be on your bandwidth. If you will not allow employees to watch online at work, communicate this to employees.

If you allow office pools, the best practice is not to sponsor them, because this is gambling and may be regulated by state gaming laws. Better to let employees unofficially organize themselves. On one hand, permitting unofficial office pools can encourage camaraderie and increase morale. On the other hand, it can lead to a lack of productivity and use of company resources. While betting pools usually amount to no more than harmless fun, and the risk of prosecution is low, employers should be aware of the potential risks as they decide whether to prohibit, ignore, or sponsor such pools.

As always, contact MSEC with your questions.