March Madness shoots for employee morale

March Madness shoots for employee morale

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March Madness opens this week, and companies should be thinking about how they are going to handle the popular NCAA men’s basketball tournament with their staff.

Companies can benefit by allowing employees to participate in March Madness activities, particularly through increased employee morale, according to Alicia Sleight, branch manager of the OfficeTeam Grand Rapids office.

Additionally, by providing clear guidelines and organized participation, employees won’t need to sneak around on their mobile devices or office computers trying to catch games and scores.

“I think so many employees are taking on heavier workloads right now, so this is a non-monetary benefit that you can offer your employees to increase the morale and keep them motivated in their position,” she said.

OfficeTeam recently conducted a two-question survey that considered employee morale and productivity regarding March Madness-themed activities. Of the 1,000 managers surveyed, 20 percent indicated activities tied to the college basketball playoffs improve employee morale at least somewhat, compared to 4 percent of respondents who viewed them negatively. The majority, 75 percent, said March Madness events have no impact on morale or productivity.

Executives who were asked the same questions in a 2010 survey were more divided, with 41 percent viewing college basketball playoff celebrations as a morale booster, and 22 percent saying these activities adversely affect employee output.

Sleight said that a separate survey conducted by the organization found that employees spend an average of 36 minutes of each workday attending to personal tasks.

“So during March Madness, it wouldn’t be surprising for people to spend longer than that,” Sleight said. “That’s where this survey is getting at — you know that people are going to, so what is the best way to turn it into a positive and make it a morale booster, make it fun, make it team building?”

OfficeTeam has provided five tips to help companies celebrate March Madness while keeping employees' heads in the game.

  • Grant timeouts so that employees can check scores or chat with coworkers about the tournament
  • Companies can foster friendly competition by allowing staff to wear their favorite teams' apparel or decorate their workspaces, within reason, to get in the spirit. Awarding prizes also can be a great alternative to betting cash pools
  • Make sure everyone knows the rules, particularly policies about acceptable computer usage
  • Management should take the lead and set an example of how to participate in tournament festivities without getting sidelined from responsibilities
  • For the next tournament, ask employees who plan to take time off to attend games to submit their requests sooner than later, so the rest of the team is prepared to handle and adjust workloads accordingly

The tournament culminates with the championship game on April 8.

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