For those about to make a racket about their brackets, hear this: March Madness costs U.S. businesses up to $2 billion dollars in lost productivity, says Curtis Graves, an attorney and information resource manager with the Mountain States Employment Council, experts in employment law and human resource management.
“That’s accounted to checking scores and updating brackets,” Graves said. “Employers can prohibit [those activities] to whatever extent they want, but with smartphones, it’s becoming harder to do so. The best practice may be to give in and sort of let them enjoy it and use it as a way to build the team.”
Graves said if employees are covertly checking scores on their devices but using the company’s Wi-Fi, that slows the network and could reduce productivity even more.
But aren’t brackets involving money considered gambling (you know who you are) and therefore illegal?
“Social gambling is permitted,” Graves said. To qualify, all wagers must be paid out to the participants, the organizer mustn’t get a cut of those wagers and all participants are expected to have a ‘bona fide social relationship.’” Additionally, an establishment isn’t allowed to profit from gambling activity even indirectly.
But the bigger the office, the bigger the pool and the less likely there exists a bona fide social relationship among all participants. And a bar running brackets and selling drinks would technically be profiting indirectly, he said.
However it’s interpreted, Graves said many employers accept the lost productivity and look at the loss as an investment in employee morale.
“Employers are embracing it and putting together brackets to get in front of it,” he said. “With more Millennials in the workplace who want autonomy and perks aside from compensation, this is a place where management can get some warm fuzzies by letting them do this, at least.”
Graves also said one can enjoy the Madness responsibly.
“Set time aside for breaks or lunch,” he said. “Or do it outside work, although that may not be practical. Also, tell people not to use the local Wi-Fi. It has to be done by 4G.”
When asked if any other event drained productivity to the same extent, Graves said Fantasy Football was second.
“Those are really the two things,” he said. “It’s funny. Nobody’s really logging on to watch the Democratic or Republican debates.”