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#Winning March Madness at Work

About 51 million office workers join office pools and contests during March Madness (including those of us at The HT Group). Between time spent filling out brackets and watching tournament games live, the total loss of productivity during this time is estimated at $4 billion. But, wait! Is that really true?

A different survey found nearly a third of senior managers interviewed said workplace activities tied to March Madness had a positive impact on employee morale and productivity. It all depends on how you harness it. Here are some ways to make it work:

Use it as incentive for sales staff. NetTel Partners, which makes business-to-business (B2B) sales calls for technology clients—experienced a 35 percent spike in the number of appointments set over the course of the tournament simply by tying those sales appointments to a March Madness-themed award system. There are several websites and apps that can be used to gamify sales activities in this way including tools from LevelEleven and Ambition.

 Create a space for watching. Putting televisions in break rooms or other public spaces and offering snacks and beverages can cut down on employees disappearing for long (perhaps drunken?) lunches at neighborhood sports bars, watching the games at their desks (which could slow bandwidth for everyone), or even calling in “sick” to work altogether. The added bonus for encouraging watching in a public spot? Employees will tend not to linger too long.

Be sure it doesn’t break the rules. A free office pool (in which workers do not have to pay to play) is the best way to keep your March Madness contest on the correct side of the law. Instead, your organization could offer up the prize. This can also help ease any tension around the office when it comes to any moral or religious objections to gambling and pressure to ante up because a manager and supervisor is doing so.

Make it appealing for non-sports-fans. March Madness brackets can be fun to pick, even for those who aren’t interested in basketball. What makes it unique from other sports is that there are so many upsets throughout the season, so pretty much anyone has a chance to win. The key to getting the entire office involved is to be inclusive with the process. Be sure the prizes aren’t tied exclusively to basketball, for instance. Instead, offer a gift card, use of the CEO’s parking spot for a week, or something else universally valued.

Does your office celebrate March Madness? Do you have other ways to turn the tournament into a boom rather than a bust for office morale and productivity? Tell us about it!


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