march madness workplace celebration

Basketball cupcakes for everybody! Your March Madness workplace celebration should be an employee engagement slam dunk. (Photo via Christina McKenzie, Flickr)

Is your company planning a March Madness workplace celebration before the NCAA Final Four? It should!
When done right, celebrating March Madness in the workplace is a slam dunk for employee engagement, happiness and even productivity.
March Madness can be a financial drain on employers, at least in the short-term. One report estimates the nationwide cost of distracted employees during the weeks of the NCAA tournament at $1.9 billion in lost wages. Another estimate puts the loss at $1.3 billion for each hour of the workday wasted on building brackets or watching games.
These are big, shocking numbers — but don’t take them at face value. Trying to banish March Madness excitement from the workplace sends the wrong message to employees and ultimately backfires.
Employers are better off managing March Madness distractions by embracing the fun and celebrating alongside employees as a means to boosting morale, engagement and loyalty, according to Forbes contributor Lee Igel.
Igel describes this as a “short-term tradeoff for long-term gain.” An employer-endorsed March Madness workplace celebration ultimately makes people more productive.
“That’s because people who are happier at work tend to be more satisfied — and people who are more satisfied tend to be more productive … and less likely to suffer from burnout,” Igel writes in his 2015 opinion piece, “Stop the Insanity About NCAA March Madness Ruining Workplace Productivity.”
Read on for tips to make your March Madness workplace celebration a win for your employees, business and company culture!

DOs and DON’Ts for March Madness in the Workplace

The NCAA has a packed schedule of high-stakes basketball games between now and the first weekend of April, with many taking place in the middle of the workday. Even people who may not normally pay attention to the sport get caught up in the excitement of strategy, brackets and cheering on their teams.
Meanwhile, what’s happening in your workplace? Follow these DOs and DON’Ts to make sure everyone is enjoying March Madness and still engaged in work — after all, fun and great work are not mutually exclusive!
DO loosen your workplace dress code. Jerseys, team colors, cubicle decorations — let employees express their excitement as long as they keep it professional and it doesn’t interfere with their duties.
DON’T ban March Madness chatter or employee-coordinated bracket pools. You’re not going to stop it, anyway. More than 60 million Americans fill out brackets, according to a Smithsonian history of March Madness pools, so you’re better off joining in than trying to fight it!

March Madness workplace celebration

Start a company-wide March Madness tournament bracket pool and share gifts with winners. (Photo via Jason Dean, Flickr)

DO organize a company-wide pool and share fun gifts (not cash) with winners. The Wall Street Journal has a free create-your-own bracket widget that will generate a bracket for you with your personal inputs!
DON’T condone illegal gambling in your workplace. A basic rule of thumb: if someone is making money off running a pool, it’s “almost certainly violating the law.” If your company doesn’t already have a policy in place, research the local, state and federal laws that apply — and be sure to communicate what you learn with employees so they’re not in for any surprises.
DO allow for flexible schedules so employees don’t miss important tournament games. As long as employees are getting their work done, they will appreciate the option to come in early, stay late or make up the time on another day.
DON’T allow video-streaming of March Madness games on personal work computers. It can overwhelm your company’s Internet bandwidth and be disruptive. Worse yet, it keeps employees isolated and self-focused.
DO encourage bonding and celebrations! Consider setting up a TV or computer in the break room or other communally accessible area so employees can cheer their favorite teams with coworkers on breaks. “How to Stream Every March Madness Game On Any Device” by Lifehacker highlights free ways to connect. A “dedicated fan zone” and daily workplace-wide March Madness activities create a lively atmosphere that employees can enjoy together, according Orlando Business Journal guest columnist Greg Denaro.
DON’T forget the non-sports fans among your employees. Your March Madness workplace celebration should include elements for everyone, whether it’s a creative potluck, themed costume contest or alternative bracket option.
DO invite clients or vendors to join in the fun. March Madness is a great opportunity to strengthen relationships with customers as well as employees!

Use March Madness to Build Stronger Relationships

The ultimate goal of your March Madness workplace celebration should be to build connections in your company, especially between teams or departments that don’t usually interact.
“Sports can bring the most eclectic group of people together, with various ages, genders, workplace titles, passions and more,” writes FOX Business contributor and LaSalle Network founder Tom Gimbel in his article, “4 Reasons to Embrace March Madness in the Workplace.” Stronger relationships lead to better workplace collaboration, productivity and engagement.
Recognizing your employees’ passions also reinforces your commitment to them as people and your appreciation of them as workers.
“An employee will be more invested in a company that supports his/her passion, and March Madness can be treated as a reward for their hard work. It shows they are appreciated,” Gimbel writes.
However you take advantage of the March Madness in the workplace, we hope you have fun and enjoy the opportunity to engage with coworkers!
Want practical tips to build your culture of employee appreciation every day this year?
Download gThankYou’s FREE Day-to-Day Celebration Calendar for tips on how to plan daily recognition and organize regular celebrations throughout the year. This one-of-a-kind eBook will help you to build an everyday culture of appreciation with month-by-month guides, case studies, research highlights, how-to recognition advice and celebration ideas for specific holidays and anytime.

Click the image below to download your free copy and start today!

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