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How to Limit Productivity Issues of March Madness

illustration of a woman and a man working on computers across from each other at a table, both are thinking about basketball

College basketball fever has struck the American workplace once again.

A survey conducted by ExpressVPN, one of the largest VPN providers worldwide, reports 65 percent of Americans plan to watch March Madness basketball games while at work and more than a quarter will do so on their work computers.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they’ll watch the games on their phones while at the office, and 14 percent will use a VPN to bypass their work firewall. One out of every five Americans intend on taking sick days or paid leave to watch games.

With such a considerable portion of the workforce planning to indulge in watching the thrilling once-a-year tournament, administrators must learn with ways to reduce the negative impact on productivity or suffer significant financial consequences. According to an estimate from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement consultancy, U.S. employers could stand to lose $2.3 billion per hour in time employees are engaged with the tournament during working hours.

Andrew Challenger, vice president of the company, said efforts to suppress the viewing of NCAA tournament games would most likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty, and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity. With labor markets getting tighter and tighter, he added that employers would be better off embracing March Madness.

Here are some ways HR can limit the damage to productivity during this festive time of the year without hurting employee morale:

  1. Broadcast the games in a breakroom and allow employees to watch during their lunch breaks
  2. Participate in an office bracket challenge for a fun, morale-boosting competition
  3. Allow workers to come to work during the tournament in apparel that represents their favorite college team
  4. Send an e-mail reminding employees that streaming games during the workday when not on break is not allowed, but encourage them to check the scores during their lunch hour
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