March Madness may be good for the workplace
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
March Madness is a boon for TV and streaming media ratings, and the NCAA earns over $1 billion per year during the tournament between ticket sales and broadcast rights.
There’s one stat that doesn’t increase during this time frame: employee productivity levels. But is this necessarily a problem?
According to some estimates, corporate losses during the yearly NCAA Tournament are close to $4 billion. Companies may be losing the productivity game, but according to two recent studies, they may be winning in another important area.
In the first study, by Robert Half, 72 percent of senior managers said college basketball tournament activities positively impacted staff morale. Also, 52 percent of the managers said they actually see productivity benefits as a result of March Madness. If that sounds like madness, it’s worth exploring the relationship between morale and productivity.
"For employees, rallying behind a sports team or engaging in a friendly sports-related competition with colleagues can foster camaraderie and boost energy levels and morale," according to Stephanie Naznitsky, executive director at OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half.
"Employers must realize that getting the best people on board, and keeping them happy and engaged, requires cultivating a desirable workplace culture." Naznitsky says companies should encourage workers to have fun and interact in a casual setting during business hours, and organizing sports-related celebrations is one option.
Of course, some managers may embrace March Madness because they’re also fans and they can’t wait to fill out their own brackets and cheer for their favorite teams. "But even if they don’t follow sports, managers should see the value in encouraging employees to enjoy non-work-related activities on the job from time to time," Naznitsky explains.
Another study, by researchers at the University of Northern Colorado and Kansas University, found that employees who work in the athletic department at a university also stop work to watch the games. The results, which were published in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, are probably not surprising.
However, one of the study’s authors, Brent D. Oja, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Northern Colorado, agrees that this practice can improve workplace morale. "Humans are not machines, and allowing employees to enjoy March Madness can bring a reprieve from workplace stress," he says.
"Certainly, March Madness is an event that many Americans look forward to each year, and accommodating that interest can boost morale by bringing the excitement of the event into the workplace."
Oja’s report also found that managers also organized watch parties or displayed games on the giant video board in an arena.
Embracing this type of approach can actually lead to another positive result. "These employees understood the importance of remaining professional and completing their work assignments," Oja says.
Naznitsky agrees that this approach can be beneficial to companies. "Having designated office festivities allows employees to enjoy sporting events during specific times, potentially reducing additional distraction throughout the day," she explains. "Workers may also be more motivated to complete their assignments so they can participate in the celebrations."
The vast majority (75 percent) of senior managers in the Robert Half survey organize sport-related festivities. If your company is thinking about celebrating as well, Naznitsky offers the following tips:
Grant time-outs. "Allowing employees to take quick breaks to check scores or chat with co-workers about the tournament can help them recharge," she says. "An informal lunch or dinner at a restaurant to watch a big game also can build camaraderie."
Foster friendly competition. Naznitsky recommends letting employees wear their favorite team’s apparel or decorate their workspace (as long as it doesn’t get too wild). "Consider organizing an office competition where individuals can win bragging rights or small items such as company-awarded gift certificates without the exchange of money."
Go over the rules. "Clearly communicate policies regarding employee breaks and internet use so professionals know what’s acceptable when it comes to March Madness and other non-work activities," she says.
Take the lead. Managers should set the example for how to participate in the tournament festivities while remaining productive. "If you complete assignments before talking hoops, employees will likely follow suit," Naznitsky explains.
Evaluate your bench. If your employees want to take time off to watch the games, she recommends asking them to submit requests as far in advance as possible. "This will help you manage workloads and determine if interim assistance is needed to keep projects on track."
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