It’s that time again. March Madness. A barrage of basketball games going on all day and all night means that inevitably your employees may be a little more distracted than usual. Every year a ton of articles are written on lost productivity and profits surrounding the March Madness distraction. But how true is it? Last week Challenger, Gray & Christmas announced that as much as $1.2 billion could be lost in revenue by organizations whose employees are busy watching March Madness.

How different is March Madness than the occasional Facebook distraction, text message, or Pandora background music? The Washington Post said that while $1.2 billion COULD be lost, odds are likely that it’s much, much less. They published a much more optimistic article, stating that only 11% of managers think the NCAA tournament has a negative impact on productivity. More interesting? 27% of managers say NCAA tournament has a POSITIVE impact on productivity and 62% saying it has no impact. There are obviously productivity concerns surrounding any major sporting event that will happen during the day, but there might be some aspects of March Madness that you haven’t explored. Here’s the honest truth (from our perspective) on March Madness productivity, how you can use it for good and what you should do to ensure productivity isn’t impacted.

  1. Understand the true engagement levels in having the games playing.
    You would never tell your employees that they couldn’t listen to the radio while they were working, right? You have a good understanding that for some, these types of background noises can actually be beneficial. Don’t overestimate engagement in basketball. For many people that are doing March Madness brackets, they really only have 1 or 2 teams that they’re following closely. The rest of the games they’re “watching” are typically not being watched, only followed for score purposes. Employees don’t want to be the ones to hear the recount, so they keep the games on as they work to ensure they’re not “missing out”. In order to reduce the impact on their productivity, consider adding a screen. While it may seem strange to add a screen to a workstation just for purposes of March Madness, rest assured that the productivity assessments surrounding dual and triple monitors are very positive. Having a second (or third) monitor ensures that employees are not focused exclusively on the game and can still be productive and work while games are going on.
  2. Overestimate the impact on your bandwidth.
    We all know that streaming video is one of the biggest bandwidth burners around. Make sure that you have plenty of bandwidth dedicated to your office for anyone that may be watching March Madness. Contact your IT Director or Managed Services company and ask them about your bandwidth, usage and anticipated increases for March Madness. Being proactive will ensure that bottlenecks don’t occur when big games are on… and to do even more to further avoid it? We’ve got an even crazier idea…
  3. Put the game on.
    It might sound a little crazy to put basketball on while your employees are working, but in order to avoid bandwidth issues and keep work monitors on work, adding a screen to a shared office area or conference room where employees can go and check scores regularly is something that can save your bandwidth and your company culture.
  4. If you really have to worry that much, reconsider your staff.
    These days employees are so hyper-connected that productivity shouldn’t even be a question. Employees spend an extra work day every week answering e-mails after hours, so they deserve a few minutes of March Madness here and there. Your employees aren’t just going to abandon their entire workload to watch March Madness all day long. If you think they might, then you should probably reconsider your hiring practices. You trust your employees, give them the freedom to choose which distraction they use during work. (If it’s not this, it’s Facebook, text messages, Reddit or cat memes, right?)

$1.2 billion is an intimidating number. Don’t let the annual hype get you down. Creating an atmosphere where your employees believe they have a little freedom is great. March Madness only happens once a year. Give your employees a little slack, keep your expectations about their workload and production clear, consider adding an additional screen, put the game on or increase your internet bandwidth for the month. You’ll be happy you did and way less freaked out about losing money. Who knows, you might even get some happier employees out of it.