As we make our way into Spring 2012, there seems to be a bug infecting offices across the nation.  No it’s not the flu, or allergies that people mistake for the flu.  It’s March Madness, and there seems to be no vaccine that can stop it from infiltrating our work places and potentially jeopardizing productivity.  Even if your company’s internet set up blocks the potential of workers sneaking peeks at streaming games in between sales reports, productivity can still be breached by wandering employees’ minds that are more concerned about how the day’s games might be affecting their bracket than they are about the daily work duties pinging in their Outlook calendars.

Below is an article from the Hiring Site by Amy Chulik on this topic.  So as an employer, do you anticipate March Madness posing as a distraction for your employees?  How do you plan on keeping their minds and eyes off the courts and on to your company’s bottom line?

March Madness Is Here: Will Worker Productivity Disappear?

Talk of brackets, predictions, and major upsets will soon have offices around the country buzzing (including, most likely, yours): 20 percent of workers say they’ve taken part in March Madness pools at work, and nearly one in ten watch March Madness games at the office. How many games? Well, 17 percent spend, on average, more than an hour checking scores while on the clock, according to CareerBuilder’s annual March Madness survey conducted by Harris Interactive© among more than 7,000 workers.

Ladies like basketball, too

While men are more likely to participate in March Madness in the office, with 27 percent joining in office pools, 13 percent of women are sporting their favorite team’s hoodie and checking up on their brackets just as often as their male counterparts.

Regional pride

When it comes to regional involvement, workers in the Midwest were found to be the most likely to place bets at work: 23 percent of Midwest workers took part in March Madness pools, compared to 20 percent in the West, 19 percent in the South and 18 percent in the Northeast. Among larger markets, Washington D.C., Minneapolis and Chicago were the highest-ranking cities.

Productivity and legality

Many employers are likely tensing up right now at the mention of March Madness, and with good reason — for a designated length of time, many employees will either be mentally or physically checked out at certain points during the tournament, either by not paying full attention to their work because they’re checking on games, or by not coming into work at all. Furthermore, many companies struggle with company NCAA pools, which are technically illegal. So what can employers do to fight the onset of worker distraction?
Well, one thing they can do is encourage it — in the right ways. If employees are going to find ways to watch a game no matter what, don’t force them to do it in the bathroom or hidden under the desk (with company hours quickly ticking away). Make the game available in the break room, or invest in a TV if you don’t have one at the office. Post a game sign-up sheet, where employees can request to watch games at certain times. Let employees know they can take time to partake in their pastime, whether at lunch or on work breaks.
Help employees by being a little more flexible in when they can take a lunch or take a break — but make it clear they are still accountable for their work. Work on creating an open culture in which employees understand you respect their interests outside of work, but that they must also respect your time as well as your trust in them to make the right decisions.

So, tell us — as an employer, do you embrace March Madness at the workplace, or dread the onset of March every year for this very reason?