March Madness in the Office: Still a Good Idea

Last March we reported on research findings suggesting that it’s actually good for employee morale and productivity to allow staff to enjoy the NCAA basketball tournament in the office. Further research doubles down on this conclusion.

This ongoing research is from staffing firm Robert Half.

Robert Half found that nearly one in four senior managers (23 percent) interviewed by the firm’s OfficeTeam business said their employer organizes activities tied to sporting events like March Madness.

Among those whose firms do get into the games, the top benefit is showing the company supports a healthy blend of work and play (39 percent), followed by building camaraderie among colleagues (37 percent).

Even professionals whose organizations aren’t willing to play ball may not be stuck on the sidelines: More than half of employees (53 percent) reported celebrating sports events with office buddies.

  • One-third (33 percent) of employees said they would most like to enjoy sports events like March Madness at work by watching games with colleagues.
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) of workers believe celebrating sporting events in the office can boost employee happiness.
  • Being a poor sport or overly competitive (30 percent) was identified as the most distracting or annoying coworker behavior during a tournament or sports season. Spending too much time talking sports (26 percent) came in second.
  • Only 11 percent of employees feel they’re less productive at work the day after a big game. Two-thirds (67 percent) said sporting events have no impact on their performance.

OfficeTeam highlights four types of coworkers you might encounter during the college basketball playoffs and tips for dealing with them:

  • The Rookie doesn’t follow the playbook regarding employee breaks and internet use during the tournament. On game day, this person arrives with a jersey, face paint and giant foam finger in tow.
  • Advice: Encourage him or her to read up on company policies to find out what activities are acceptable.
  • The Commentator spends more time talking sports than completing assignments.
  • Advice: Take quick breaks to chat about tournament highlights with this colleague, if allowed, but don’t let your work suffer. If you’re the boss and he or she wants to take time off to enjoy the playoffs, mention it’d be helpful to know as far in advance as possible so you can reassign projects or bring in temporary professionals.
  • The Poor Sport takes competition too far, throwing jabs at anyone who doesn’t root for his or her favorite college.
  • Advice: Remind this coworker it’s just a game. Don’t let friendly banter get out of hand, regardless of team allegiances.
  • The Benchwarmer doesn’t know a thing about “The Big Dance” or “bracket busters.” This spoilsport passes on all the hoopla.
  • Advice: If colleagues are celebrating by watching games together or having an informal contest, invite this person to join. Make it easy for non-sports fans to participate and have fun.

Bottom line: Managers should take advantage of this intense interest in the tournament to build the moral of their own teams.

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