If you are a basketball fan like me, you look forward to March—March Madness, that is. But can March Madness backfire on small businesses? Indeed, March Madness in the office can drain productivity. And it appears that some managers are concerned about it.

Thirty-two percent of managers interviewed felt NCAA basketball tournament activities shouldn’t be allowed in the workplace. That’s because it brings unwelcomed distractions. I can see the point. E-mail goes unanswered and phones keep right on ringing when the staff is glued to the tube waiting to see who advances to the Sweet 16 and the Final Four, not to mention the championship game.

Interestingly enough, even with the potential productivity drain, most businesses are willing to engage in March Madness activities in the office. Fifty-seven percent of office managers said events tied to the college basketball playoffs are acceptable in moderation. Another 11 percent welcome March Madness in all its distracting glory.

“As long as they don’t interfere with work, activities tied to sporting events can be great for morale,” says OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. “Watching a game together or holding friendly contests provides opportunities for employees to build team spirit.”

More men (36 percent) than women (6 percent) confessed to being distracted on the job by outside sporting events. Thirty-four percent of professionals between the ages of 18 and 34 also admitted to being sidetracked, more than those in other age groups.

OfficeTeam offers five tips to help workers keep their heads in the game during March Madness:

  1. Don’t get benched. Before checking scores online or participating in game-related activities at work, review company policies so you know what’s acceptable and what’s not.

  2. Take the occasional time out. If your firm allows it, enjoy quick breaks to discuss tournament highlights with coworkers, but don’t let these talks sideline you from other responsibilities. If you’re a die-hard fan, consider requesting time off to watch the playoffs.

  3. Set up a game plan. If you want to take a day off to enjoy a sporting event, ask your supervisor as far in advance as possible so workloads can be managed. There may be many others with the same idea.

  4. Don’t step out of bounds. Review your company’s policy and find out ahead of time if your employer is OK with decorating your workspaces to support your favorite colleges.

  5. Be a good sport. Regardless of team allegiances, show proper sportsmanship in the office. Leave your overly competitive streak at home.


Check out this video on March Madness in the workplace: