March Madness and Your Workplace

“March Madness” — the 79th annual NCAA basketball tournament — officially started on March 17 with the “First Four” games. Teams completed the second round of play March 18 and 19, and the tournament will close with the championship game in April.


What does March Madness mean for your workplace? Potentially a great deal of distraction, but also maybe a morale boost. Whether your company views the NCAA basketball tournament as a problem or a way for employees to talk and bond about something of common interest, the fact is that your employees know the tournament is here.


Bonding Over Baskets

OfficeTeam, a staffing service specializing in the placement of office and administrative support professionals, recently asked senior managers whether NCAA basketball tournament festivities in the office, such as watching game highlights or engaging in friendly competitions, affect morale and productivity.


More than half of the senior managers interviewed (59 percent) said they believed that March Madness had no impact at all on morale or productivity. And surprisingly, one in five (27 percent) of those surveyed felt activities tied to the college basketball playoffs improve employee morale at least somewhat, compared to only one percent of respondents who viewed the activities very negatively.


But whether you believe talking about the game can be good for morale or not, there are limits that must be put in place. After all, work must get done.


Limiting Distractions


Employers can limit the distracting aspect of March Madness by controlling Internet usage time and employees’ ability to stream game feeds to their PCs. Employers also should reinforce their policies regarding Internet use and what is acceptable and unacceptable. Employees should not be able to watch the games live while on work time — eating up time that the employee should be spending on work and using up your company’s bandwidth resources.


Employers should review any policies in place regarding use of personal tablets or smart-phones during work times. Such policies are highly recommended and certainly not just for this purpose. Companies need to inform their employees that use of personal devices to engage in conduct that is (1) taking away from productive work time or (2) not appropriate for work — such as placing bets — is against company policy and grounds for discipline.


Employers can set up designated times for employees to talk about the tournament, such as sponsoring a weekly pizza lunch during March Madness or a Friday morning donut break. Hosting a team color day where jerseys or other team apparel can be worn may also be appreciated by your workers and a way to focus the distraction in a positive manner.

Confront the Gambling Issue


Office pools are gambling; there is no way around it, and workplace gambling is illegal under California’s Penal Code. The criminal penalty that might apply can depend on the size of the betting pool, but it’s still a potential problem. As the employer, your employees may think you’re a wet blanket when it comes to “office fun,” but you’re also the one who has to set rules and standards of conduct and who is potentially liable for illegal activity.


In a case outside California, a manager was arrested for allegedly taking a 10-percent cut from an office pool. He supposedly used the office e-mail system to advertise the pool and was charged with promoting gambling. A co-worker turned him in.


The fact remains that your employees are at work, and some things are just not appropriate for the workplace, including gambling. Sending a memo out about gambling in advance of March Madness or other major sporting events may put an end to any office pools and also will show that your company does not condone such activities.


Consistency is the key; don’t forbid employees to participate in a March Madness office pool but allow them to participate in a baby shower pool (guess the due date, guess the weight, etc.).

For more information on gambling at work, download our white paper.


No Rest for the Weary


It’s happened to all of us: not enough sleep on a ‘school night’ makes for a foggy day at work. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of U.S. workers say they go to work while tired, with 31 percent reporting that they do so regularly, according to a new survey by Accountemps, a global staffing firm.


What Happens When You’re Tired


A person going to work tired may not seem like a big deal, but there are consequences:

  • 52 percent of those who took the survey said being tired led to a lack of focus or being easily distracted
  • 47 percent said they procrastinated more
  • 38 percent said they were grumpy
  • 29 percent said they made more mistakes


These consequences can cause problems for employees and employers.


“There is no upside to having an exhausted team at work,” said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps, in a statement. “Failing to take action can lead to big problems such as burnout, turnover and a negative corporate culture, along with lost sales and productivity.”


Memorable Mistakes


Employees who participated in the survey admitted to — or heard about others — making mistakes like these because of being tired on the job:

  • Made a $20,000 mistake on a purchase order
  • Deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together
  • Accidentally reformatted a server
  • Fell asleep in front of the boss during a presentation
  • Missed a decimal point on an estimated payment, resulting in the client overpaying by $1 million
  • Accidentally paid everyone twice
  • Talked about a client thinking the phone was on mute … it wasn’t
  • Ordered 500 more computers than was necessary


So Who’s Tired, Anyway?


Younger workers seem to be fighting fatigue more than others, according to survey results: 86 percent of employees between 18 and 34 who participated in the survey said they’re often sleepy at work, compared to 71 percent of workers ages 35 to 54 and 50 percent of respondents ages 55 and older.


Extended Shifts and Fatigue


In some work environments, long, graveyard or emergency shifts can also cause disruption to sleep patterns and fatigue.


Although no specific federal or state occupational safety and health standard addresses these types of shifts, employers still have a duty to maintain a safe workplace and be aware of hazards that may be the result of fatigue.


Fatigue in the workplace can lead to errors that result in injuries and can also increase reactions to other stressors in the environment, such as heat. Steps might include looking for warning signs and symptoms, ensuring adequate rest and recovery periods, and limiting the number of days that an employee works extended shifts.


Bad Progression


If lack of sleep leads to excessive or unexcused tardiness for an employee, his/her employer will likely consider taking disciplinary action.


Record and track attendance accurately and consistently. Knowing that you keep detailed attendance records may spur some employees to make more of an effort to get to work on time.


On the flip side, no-fault attendance policies, where discipline is automatic after a certain number of late days, can open an employer up to liability for failing to take into account protected leave situations. A pattern of fatigue, tardiness and absenteeism may be related to an underlying disability. If this is the case, employers should be aware of their responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for the employee.


Best Practices

  • Monitor attendance daily for accuracy
  • Be aware of safety, productivity and accuracy issues that can arise as a result of fatigue
  • If fatigue is the result of heavy workloads or extended shifts, determine whether anything can be done to address the situation, and, if not, make sure managers are diligently monitoring the situation for signs of fatigue, especially for those who work in potentially hazardous situations

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