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How Does March Madness Affect Workplace Productivity?

 employees watching march madness on their smart devices

It’s March, which for many Americans means one thing: March Madness!

The annual NCAA Tournament is a big draw: 68 teams compete over the course of three weeks for a place in college basketball history.

If there’s any indication of how popular March Madness is, it’s the fact that for the past ten years, Werner, a ladder manufacturer, has paid money to be the official ladder of March Madness. Television programs that air before 6pm typically don’t receive that level of sponsorship.

In fact, daytime television is usually reserved for your grandmother’s low-budget ‘stories’ because the majority of Americans are working during the day.

Daytime television viewership changes drastically during March, though, which means that a lot of people are either skipping work to watch basketball or watching at work. A recent study, published by TSheets, produced pretty interesting results on how employees and managers see March Madness affecting productivity.

Employees Don’t Like to be Told What to Do

You’ve probably heard this before, but in case you haven’t, be sure to check out our blog post on how telling employees what to do is not motivating.

The survey results suggest that prohibiting March Madness does very little to stop people from watching. The survey reports that “Forty-eight percent of those whose bosses were against watching games at work had it on all the time.” Also interesting is that “Fifty-two percent of those whose bosses were against [watching March Madness] admitted to watching games in the bathroom.”

So, if your managers expressly forbid employees from watching the college basketball tournament, half of their department is probably going to be spending way too much time in the bathroom and/or tuning into games all day anyway.

Amazingly, when employees are encouraged to watch games during work, “none admit to watching more than three hours during the tournament.” It is worth noting that 42 percent of employees who are encouraged to watch games do call in sick over the course of the tournament, compared to only 11 percent of employees who are told not to watch.

Then again, employees who are encouraged to watch games aren’t spending as much time hiding in the bathroom, so that lost time could balance out over the course of the tournament.

Employees Don’t Think March Madness Affects Their Productivity

With these self-reported results, 21.1% of employees say they start their work early in the day to make time in their schedule to catch games, and 12.2% stayed late to catch up on work.

The tournament also results in almost 30 percent of employees reporting that they are more excited to go to work, and 29% of them find their work more enjoyable. A quarter of survey respondents found that March Madness increases camaraderie in the workplace.

You Can Probably Get Through March Without Sacrificing Productivity

Sure, an employee here and there might call in sick, but you can definitely get through March without losing any significant productivity, even if your employees are streaming a few hours of March Madness on their computers in the background. Perhaps spend a little time prior to the tournament reinforcing your expectations, and offer workarounds like staying late or working ahead of deadlines, rather than expressly forbidding people from enjoying the games.

If you’re worried about how well your employees and organization are managing time overall, download our free ebook for helpful strategies!

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Derek researches, discusses, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. He regularly interviews L&D and HR professionals, sharing their insight on trends and best practices that help organizations create stronger training programs, and help to grow their employees and their business.