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March 15, 2012

It’s Time for the Big Dance – Are You Ready?!

Filed under: Compliance,Management Practices9:27 am

Even if March Madness hasn’t hit you, it can seem nearly impossible to avoid it anywhere, including at work.  The first qualifying round finished up yesterday, and starting about noon Eastern Time the first of 17 games will be played today.  Thanks to CBS, you can watch every game on television, on your computer, and on your mobile device.

Drain on productivity?

In short, it’s a great time to be a college basketball fan, but not necessarily a great time to be in HR.  All the instant access could threaten employee productivity over the next few weeks, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.  Challenger estimated that during the 2011 tournament viewers would spend 8.4 million hours watching games during normal working hours.  Lest you think I’m a wet blanket when it comes to March Madness, we’ll put it into perspective: Challenger goes on to say that also during the tournament, 108 million workers logged more than 11 billion hours of work.  Those 8.4 million hours don’t sound quite as bad anymore.

What about those bracket pools?

Aside from the drain on bandwidth and lost productivity that can come this time of year, you may have some legal issues to consider.  According to a Careerbuilder survey of 7,000 workers, at least one in five surveyed said they have participated in March Madness pools in the workplace.  Additionally, 17 percent said they spent more than an hour checking scores while on the clock.

Do you know the specifics of your state’s gambling laws?  In terms of practicality, law enforcement typically has better things to do with their resources than track down your office’s low-stakes sports pool.  But consider this case: a management –level AT&T employee was arrested for operating an office football pool in which he took a 10 percent cut.  He had advertised the pool in office emails, and a fellow employee turned him in.  In the end, he faced the possibility of up to five years in prison.

If you decide that gambling should be prohibited, there are some things you need to think about:

  • Define gambling or the type of behavior that will be restricted.
  • Acknowledge that gambling is illegal, and can interfere with employee productivity.
  • Be consistent and fair in the application of the policy, coordinating with your progressive discipline policy.

If you believe that March Madness can actually enhance productivity or encourage camaraderie in your workplace, but you have concerns about legal issues, have the company fund the contest by awarding a prize to the winner.  Be sure to check your state’s gambling laws to be sure this method helps you avoid the appearance of illegal gambling.

Finally, in case you wonder where my loyalty lies: I bleed crimson and blue, through and through!  Here’s a shout-out to my team, the Kansas Jayhawks, who are headed to their 23rd straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Rock Chalk!


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