The annual NCAA March Madness tournament started this week. Are your employees being as productive as normal? According to an annual study conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a global outplacement company, it is estimated American companies will lose at least $134 million in wages over just the first two days of the spring tournament because an estimated 3 million employees are spending time following the basketball games instead of working. In another survey, MSN and Impulse Research found 66% of workers will follow March Madness during work hours. It is not just watching the games that cause loss of productivity, but it is that some employees will be coordinating office pools and spending time researching teams during the work day.
The NCAA is encouraging workers to watch the games during work hours by offering free streaming on all internet-connected devices for pay-TV subscribers. Even worse, the NCAA March Madness Live website has a “Boss Button” an employee can click on to disguise their computer screen so it looks like the employee is reading e-mails, if the boss comes by.
What can Employers do to prepare for the predicted decrease in employee productivity over the next few weeks? Look at the culture of your Company, and determine ahead of time how you want to address the March Madness tournament. Remind employees of Company policies regarding absenteeism and abuse of sick leave. Supervise the employees and confirm they are getting their work accomplished. If the work is getting done, then maybe it isn’t the end of the world if they check out the scores online. However, if you find employees spending more time following the basketball games, than working, it is important to counsel them, they are there to work, and are being paid for doing a good job. If they continue, then discipline might be necessary. What is important though, is the Company sends a clear message and treats all employees the same.
This year the University of Minnesota squeaked into the tournament. Even though I’m not a U of M alum, or a huge basketball fan, I will be rooting for the Gophers, and will likely check out how they are doing online at least once.