I’ve written several times about the phenomena known as “March Madness” (most recently in 2011). This is the annual event marking the start of four consecutive days of college basketball playoffs beginning mid-morning and running until the wee hours of the night, with games going on all across the country. As a result of this Super Bowl of college basketball, worker productivity takes a huge hit to the tune of over $130 million each year as workers contemplate brackets, argue about whether the Duke or Florida teams are real this year, or even sneak an extended peak at the games themselves on TV . Some companies have thrown in the towel and will even wheel TV’s into work areas to try to get something achieved during these games.
In my prior blog, I suggested that employers embrace the concept, and for those wanting to run a pool, they should follow a couple of simple guidelines:
1. Make it fully optional, and don’t have anyone forced (shamed) into playing. With the office pool as a required or even “recommended” activity, you send the wrong signal to those employees who really have no interest in being involved. It’s suppose to be a fun thing, not like those typical school fund raising activities we all seemed to get roped into even though I really don’t like popcorn or need more Christmas cards.
2. Keep it small. For companies with multi-state operations, I wouldn’t let it get beyond the local, geographic office. This is not the time to become an entrepreneurial and begin to rival Las Vegas’ sports books by expanding the office pool to hundreds of locations.
3. Keep it low $. The betting stakes should be low. Make March Madness a special, fun event, not something someone is looking to retire off of if they win. A couple of dollars is one thing. When you start getting to $20, $50, or even more per submission, things start to get way too serious which makes fertile ground for someone to get disgruntled.
4. Don’t make a profit. Distribute all the money from the pool to the winners. The person running it should not take a cut or profit from anything that was spent on March Madness. This will ensure that the pool can only be classified as “social gambling,” which is technically legal in more states.
5. Avoid using the Internet. The Web just opens up more chances of running into problems of all sorts of laws around online betting.
Today’s HR Resources has a “March Madness: Everything HR needs to know” story that is a very good outline for employers, HR, and managers. Of note in the article is that you shouldn’t expect the police to come charging through the door if someone in the company is running a $10 voluntary office pool. They have more important things to worry about these days.
Throw in the fact that it also spring break week in a lot of areas and I think that productivity impact is being understated.
So let the games begin. And employers — relax a little. It will all be over after a couple of days