Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

March Madness saps workplace productivity but pumps employees

March 19, 2008


March Madness hurts work productivity

While many business owners don't mind the reduction in work-place productivity due to March Madness, some authorities say you still need to be careful. Enlarge video

On the street

Do you usually participate in an office pool for the NCAA Tournament?

Not really. I’m always too late for those. They didn’t really do any at my old job.

More responses

Productivity slowdown?

Things are only picking up at some local businesses these days as employees and customers alike get swept into March Madness.

"If there's any loss in productivity, it's made up for in the excitement and energy that people bring to work," said Warner Lewis, director of marketing at Peoples Bank.

Kansas fans will be sneaking a peek at the TV or listening to the radio when the Jayhawks play Portland State at 11:25 a.m. Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite all the time spent tending to brackets and tuning into games, some say March Madness actually has benefits for the workplace.

"You know how Monday mornings are kind of dead?" Lewis said Monday. "It wasn't today. They were wound up today, and if (KU does) well again, they'll be wound up next Monday."

A 2007 report by the Chicago-based consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated focus on hoops means a hit of as much as $3.8 billion for employers nationally.

Plus, there's the issue of the law. Office pools in which members pay to play and the winner takes all the earnings are illegal under Kansas law, said David Melton, chief assistant district attorney for Douglas County.

Melton said he's not aware of any such cases referred to the office for prosecution.

"That's not to say we wouldn't prosecute a case like that," he said. "It would be up to us to determine if there had been a violation of Kansas law, and if there had been, then there's a good chance that we'd be filing charges against someone."

But, Melton said, it's better to keep the money out of March Madness.

"People can participate for bragging rights or just for the fun of it," Melton said. "They just can't pay money in."

Some, like Lewis, say employees use their lunch hours and breaks to tend to their sports needs.

Within the right parameters, a little bit of hoop madness isn't all bad, said Diane Swanson, management professor at Kansas State University.

Swanson said sports enthusiasm can connect employees, increase their interest in work and foster camaraderie - a benefit during these times of outsourcing and downsizing.

"There's a different climate for employer/employee relationships than there has been in the past," Swanson said. "There's more job insecurity. So anything that can boost morale and solidarity and a feeling of loyalty in the workplace would be a positive thing."

At Amarr Garage Doors, brackets aren't hard to find, said Kirsten Krug, director of people.

"We try and help people understand that the primary goal is still to stay focused on work even though the Jayhawks are doing wonderful," she said.

The company allows employees to listen to games on radios.

"We know that it's going to happen whether we allow it or not," she said.

Krug said productivity during March Madness either remains steady or improves over typical months.

"The health of the work force has a lot to do with their mental health," Krug said of employees. "When they're happy, they're productive. So that's good. We want the Jayhawks to do well."


beawolf 10 years, 2 months ago

The DA would be run out of town if he ever prosecuted someone for an office pool.

jackie 10 years, 2 months ago

Fact beawolf. Melton might be a nerd.

Jillian Andrews 10 years, 2 months ago

Where can I get one of those shiny balls?!

FatTony 10 years, 2 months ago

I think the headline should be "Reading LJWorld online saps worker productivity"

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