5 ways your business can embrace March MadnessEven if you aren’t much of a sports fan, you are probably aware that March Madness begins this week. For the 1% who don’t know, “March Madness” is another name for the NCAA men’s basketball championship tournament, which will last for the next few weeks. It will captivate the minds and time of millions of people, many of whom are your employees. So, what does this mean for you as an employer?

Two things:

  1. Many of the games occur during the work day.
  2. Many of the games last late into the evening.

If your employees aren’t missing work—or watching the games at work—they might be coming in exhausted from watching the games the night before. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the NCAA Tournament could cost employers as much as $1.9 billion in wages to distracted or unproductive employees.

So, what’s a business owner to do? Here are a few tips that can help you embrace March Madness while still getting the most out of your workforce.

1. Acknowledge the tournament.

Don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore March Madness. Your employees know it’s here, and they will be taking part whether or not you are on board. So, go ahead and recognize it. Perhaps you could throw a March Madness party for a boost of morale. Try to plan meetings early in the week to avoid conflicts with games, and let employees know it’s OK to keep an eye on the games.

2. Engage your employees.

Employee engagement is a hot topic, and employers should take advantage of every opportunity to connect with their employees. Maybe you could plan a company “tailgate” lunch and show the games in the breakroom.  You could encourage employees to wear their favorite team’s jerseys. Or, perhaps you could allow employees to decorate their offices or cubicles with their team colors.

3. Remind your employees about PTO.

For employees who really indulge in the festivities, a friendly reminder to consider using vacation days could go a long way. It’s better for you to encourage vacation days proactively than have to react to long lunches or distracted employees who watch the games at their desks.

4. Offer flex time.

There is a good chance some of your employees will want to watch games during the day. Allowing them an extra hour or two during the traditional business day (which will be made up another day) to watch their favorite teams could lead to a much more productive day and will likely result in very appreciative employees.

5. Don’t get involved in gambling.

Sponsoring or even permitting gambling in the office can get you in big trouble. But this doesn’t mean you can’t make things interesting. You can still take “bets” or put together brackets, just remember you cannot collect cash or pay out a cash prize. Instead, you can have contests for prizes such as free lunches, vacation time, etc. You can have fun, but don’t risk crossing the gambling line.

By following these five tips, you can make sure the the next three weeks are productive and fun for your March Madness-obsessed employees.