What Managers Think of March Madness in the Workplace


March is upon us, and the madness of the NCAA Tournament is about to begin. Though it’s estimated that 51 million workers participate in an office bracket pool, and employers stand to lose $1.3 billion in lost productivity, managers’ opinions on March Madness vary.

Most Managers Don’t Mind

In a recent survey by Office Team, most managers (57 percent) said they don’t encourage NCAA tournament activities in the office, but think they’re OK in moderation.  But almost one-third (32 percent) said they don’t want any tournament activities in the office. On the other hand, 11 percent called them a welcome diversion.

Do You Get Distracted?

The survey also asked workers if they ever get distracted during March Madness. Most (80%) said no, but 20 percent admitted to getting sidetracked by the madness. Men (36 percent) are much more likely than women (6 percent) to get preoccupied with the tourney, and 34 percent of 18-34-year-olds admitted they get distracted, more so than any other age group in the office.

How to Manage the Madness

Many managers struggle with how to handle the NCAA tournament in the office. Though some leaders might think about banning tournament activities altogether, you might be better off turning a blind eye or even looking at it as a fun team building opportunity.

“Efforts to suppress the Madness would most likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty, and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity,” Andrew M. Challenger, vice president of the consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said.

“With labor markets getting tighter and tighter, employers would be better off embracing March Madness. For example, start a company-wide office pool that is free to enter and offers a free lunch or gift card for the winner. Or, allow workers to come to work during the tournament in apparel supporting their favorite college team (even if that team is not in the tournament). Employers may even want to consider setting up a television in a break room or conference room, so employees can check scores.”

Advice for Employees During March Madness

Though some managers may not mind the tournament in the office, be wary before you go all out for March Madness. Make sure you know what is acceptable in your workplace when it comes to streaming games or checking your bracket. Don’t let it get out of hand: even if your manager is part of the 11 percent who welcomes the distraction, don’t fall behind in your work because you’re busy watching the games. But above all, enjoy the tournament and embrace the madness!

Good Luck on Your Brackets!