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Use March Madness to Boost Employee Camaraderie

Learn how managers can capitalize on March Madness or similar types of activities in the workplace to enhance team building and increase collaboration among co-workers as well as minimize lost productivity.

March 25, 2010
Related Topics: Technology
KEYWORDS metrics / technology
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Employees huddle around a computer. Cheers rip through the air. Brackets are circulated among co-workers. There’s no denying the excitement — and, in some cases, the tension — as March Madness kicks into high gear and seeps into workplaces across the United States.

“[This is] something that’s on so many people’s minds right now — March Madness is such a big deal in the media, and people just generally get fired up by it,” said Robert Hosking, executive director for OfficeTeam, a staffing service.

Amid the festivities though, employers may be left wondering what the toll will be on employee productivity.

A recent survey conducted by OfficeTeam reveals that 41 percent of managers said March Madness activities in the workplace — such as co-workers watching the games together or participating in pools that don’t involve money — actually have a positive impact on employee morale; 48 percent said they had no impact.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the vast majority of respondents (78 percent) said these types of activities either have a positive impact or no impact on employee productivity.

“It is interesting that if everybody is watching the games or staying up late or leaving early to do it, [one would assume] their productivity would go down, so it must be that people feel as though they’re balancing their workload relatively well,” Hosking said.

He said some organizations host viewing parties or friendly, informal competitions in order to enhance team building among co-workers.

“It’s not necessarily encouraging a pool where money exchanges [happen] because that is illegal — so as a management or leadership team you definitely don’t want to encourage that, but maybe create an office competition where there’s a prize for the team that wins, like a gift certificate to Starbucks or something,” Hosking said.

Some organizations allow employees to wear their favorite teams’ jerseys on a Friday, and some even encourage them to put up decorations in the office or at their workspace.

This allows employees to show their pride in their favorite teams and also stirs up a bit of friendly rivalry, which can be healthy and create good-natured office banter as long as it doesn’t get negative, Hosking explained.

Managers would be best served to leverage such activities as team-building opportunities rather than completely ignoring the craze sweeping through the office.

“You know it’s happening; you know that people are talking about it, so bring it out into the open so people can have some laughs,” he said.

But managers should put in place certain boundaries and effectively communicate office policies pertaining to such activities. For instance, office pools will not be tolerated.

“In addition to that, during the March Madness period, people do take time off, so [it’s important for managers to] communicate time-off policies so there [aren’t] too many people off on the same day. Or, all of a sudden there’s this big group of people who want to go off and watch a game, and it happens to be on the same day, and they’re all leaving early. Communicate well beforehand so there’s no confusion,” Hosking said.

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