A Kansas State University business professor says the NCAA men’s collegiate basketball championship tournament may not be the productivity-suck that workplace scolds routinely lament.
In fact, Diane Swanson,professor at K-State, believes following the tournament action and tracking the results of office betting brackets can boost morale enough to offset any productivity lag.
“Selection Sunday,” March 13, kicks off March Madness. Games begin Tuesday, March 15—and, in the early rounds, many take place in the middle of the workday.
The staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates lost productivity during the 19-day tournament will top $1 billion. Lay most of the blame on bracket-based betting in which co-workers predict which team will win each round and advance in the tournament.
Although NCAA tournament pools are technically illegal, try finding an office without one.
Swanson, the management prof, sees nothing inherently wrong with employees participating in these pools while at work—as long as it’s done in moderation.
She says participation in office pools can act as a counterweight to the cost and productivity issue, which some place at about $101 million lost by businesses for every 10 minutes employees spend obsessing about the tournament. Pools can instead increase employee morale and output, Swanson contends.
“Such activities at work do create a bond among employees and increase their interest in being at work and foster a climate of solidarity,” Swanson says. “Instead of people sitting solemnly around and not connecting, these kinds of things can help to connect people and create bonds.”
But Swanson, who specializes in business ethics, notes that employees who are uncomfortable with the practice or not interested in the games shouldn’t feel pressured to participate. “I think one key to balance out the concern is whether the employer is comfortable with this practice,” Swanson observes. “If the employer has knowledge of it and doesn’t view it as disruptive, I do not see it as unethical per se, although, ultimately, I have to respect the letter of the law in this area.”