We're in the midst of another March Madness season, which means a significant decline in office productivity at many companies. Here are some ways to minimize the madness without being a poor sport.
Coach your team well. When people show up to work late or not at all, projects and deadlines are thrown off. In fact, in a separate OfficeTeam survey, 27 percent of workers admitted they’ve called in sick or played hooky the day after a major sporting event. You don’t want to dampen spirits, but it’s important to set expectations.
Remind employees to play by the book. Explain that, when people schedule time in advance per company guidelines, it makes it easier for you to adjust workflows and timelines as necessary. Fortunately the Final Four games are played on a Saturday, and tip-off for the championship game is on Monday, April 2 after normal business hours. But even though most employees won’t be watching the game at the office, you should emphasize that work comes first.
Serve as the captain. Don’t forget that your employees pay attention to what you do while on the clock. Set a good example by showing them how to get into the March Madness spirit without shortchanging your responsibilities. If you’re watching game highlights at the office, they’re likely to do the same. Most employees who see their manager being diligent and getting the job done will also buckle down.
Reassure ‘non-players.’ Not everyone eats, lives and breathes the NCAA tournament. The OfficeTeam survey shows among the workers polled, only 46 percent are mad about the playoffs. The rest are either going along with the crowd (33 percent) or wish everyone would just focus on work (21 percent). Make sure no one at the office feels left out or bullied if they didn’t fill out a bracket or choose not to pick sides.

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Is your team infected with March Madness? Common symptoms include moaning about busted brackets and chronic checking of game scores.

The fever around major athletic events can be great for office morale and job satisfaction, but is it also a productivity buster? Professionals spend an average of 25.5 minutes daily on sports-related activities during the college basketball playoffs, finds a recent OfficeTeam survey. That’s less than half an hour during a typical workday, so what’s the big hoopla? Well, over the course of the entire tournament, all those minutes add up to six hours per employee.

And it’s not just the NCAA playoffs. With baseball, tennis, hockey, soccer, car racing, the Olympics and more, there’s an endless stream of games, matches and competitions. It’s one thing for workers to bond over athletics. But if business priorities are starting to get sidelined, you may have to call a time-out.

A healthy corporate culture makes room for fun, downtime and socializing. So go ahead and organize informal competitions, encourage workers to wear their team attire or allow employees to take quick breaks to talk about scores, in moderation. But remember a little defensive planning can help ensure that March Madness is a win-win for everyone.


Brandi Britton is district president of OfficeTeam, the nation’s leading staffing service specializing in the temporary placement of highly skilled administrative and office support professionals.