With the announcement of teams this week for the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, there will be the inevitable dour reports that bracket filling, live streaming, and fun (or even higher stakes) wagering will cost employers billions of dollars of productivity. According to these reports, over 80 million brackets will be filled out for the 68 teams in the tournament, making this an incomparable cultural event and one that inevitably will touch the workplace.
With Greenville, SC returning as a host city for the first time in 15 years and several high-profile teams in the Carolinas earning the right to play in the tournament, the games (and the fun) are in full swing and March Madness has taken over.
What should a responsible employer do?
- Embrace the Fun.
Rather than clamp down on bracket talk completely, employers may be able to embrace the idea that a “happy worker is a productive worker.” Sure, parameters may be required: live streaming games all afternoon may sap both productivity and IT bandwidth. But allowing employees to dress in school colors or providing lunch and a TV in a common area can provide the right message that you can work and engage in some March Madness fun at the same time.
- Provide Alternatives to Illegal Gambling.
Employers should not condone and/or facilitate, much less pressure employees to participate in, illegal gambling. While most authorities consider low fee bracket pools to be a minimal risk for criminal investigation, many of these pools are against the law. And there are instances of individuals being charged and/or suffering adverse employment consequences for running or participating (usually high stakes) pools. Plus, some employees will have religious or moral objections to being pressured or forced to pay money to participate in office pools. No-fee pools and other events can make bracket-filling fun without risking legal liability.