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Five tips on keeping employees on the ball during March Madness

March 6th, 2013

dukebasketballSo, how does your firm handle March Madness at work? OfficeTeam recently asked more than 1,000 managers whether NCAA basketball tournament festivities in the office, such as watching game highlights or engaging in friendly competitions, affect morale and productivity.

One in five (20 percent) of those surveyed felt activities tied to the college basketball playoffs improve employee morale at least somewhat, compared to only 4 percent of respondents who viewed them negatively. The majority (75 percent) said March Madness events have no impact on morale or productivity.

Based in the Research Triangle, where teams from Duke, North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, NC State, and other regional schools compete at the highest levels year-after-year, we’ve seen how intense intereste is in the NCAA tournament.

But the Office Team survey shows that smart managers can use this to help office workers bond and significantly boost morale.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees.

Managers were asked, “Do you feel March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament) activities in the workplace, such as watching games or participating in pools that don’t involve money, have a positive or negative impact on employee morale?” Their responses:

Very positive 5%
Somewhat positive 15%
No impact 75%
Somewhat negative 3%
Very negative 1%
Don’t know/no answer 1%
100%

Managers also were asked, “Do you feel March Madness activities in the workplace have a positive or negative impact on employee productivity?” Their responses:

Very positive 5%
Somewhat positive 11%
No impact 75%
Somewhat negative 8%
Very negative 1%
100%

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.

“It’s often better for managers to acknowledge the appeal of events like March Madness and provide opportunities for their staff to enjoy the festivities rather than ignore them,” said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking .

“Employees need a chance to bond with coworkers over shared interests. Group activities — whether based on the NCAA basketball tournament or other events — provide a channel for team building.”

OfficeTeam offers five tips to help companies celebrate March Madness while keeping employees’ heads in the game:

  1. Grant time-outs. Allowing employees to take quick breaks to check scores or chat with coworkers about the tournament can help them recharge. An informal lunch or dinner at a restaurant to watch a big game also can build camaraderie.
  2. Foster friendly competition. Let staff wear their favorite teams’ apparel or decorate their workspaces, within reason, to get in the spirit. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Take the lead. Set a good example by showing how to participate in tournament festivities without getting sidelined from responsibilities. If you complete assignments before talking hoops, employees will likely follow suit.
  5. Evaluate your bench. If team members want to take time off to watch the playoffs, ask 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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