In a normal year, over 70 million brackets are filled out by people excited to watch 68 teams play for the college basketball national championship during the month of March and into April.
During this pandemic year, the NCAA tournament has been reduced to about 2.5 weeks, but all basketball fans are elated that the tournament is actually being played. Last year March without the Madness was brutal!
According to Robert Half, the average worker will spend six hours watching March Madness at work with many taking part in some type of March Madness work-themed activity during the traditional month-long event. This means that the ball is in the employer’s court when it comes to handling March Madness in the workplace and/or remotely this year.
Here are five ideas to consider for embracing the traditional event as an opportunity to improve employee morale and team building. And with the long-term effects of the pandemic still swirling around us, consider using any or all of them to support employee morale right now and promote work-team spirit.
1) Create a Bracket Challenge with No Buy-In
One of the greatest parts of March Madness is filling out a bracket predicting who will win and taking part in pools with co-workers. Typically, however, pools involving money in the workplace leads down a slippery slope. (Because of the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 and because co-workers owing each other money can be tricky, pools involving money in the workplace are typically not encouraged.)
An alternative game plan can be creating an office pool with no buy-in and attach a simple reward such as a gift card, an extra a day of PTO, a new office chair, etc. Be creative as to what would be meaningful to your team. This pool allows everyone to participate while also avoiding any unfortunate situations.
2) Set Up a Viewing Room
If your employees are working on site, and if you can do so safely with social distancing, consider creating a space at work that allows employees to watch games during lunch and breaks with expectations that work must still be completed. The bottom line is that employees spend 25.5 minutes a day watching March Madness every year, it’s easier than ever for employees to get distracted at their desks using their phones or computers. Creating a break-room space can help create moral-boosting company buy-in.
3) Celebrate with Food
Good food is always a rallying cry! Order food in if you’re in the office and celebrate with an office lunch and celebration. Even those who may not be into sports can feel included in this celebration. And if your team is working remotely, consider a gift card sent to each person so they can order lunch or snacks to participate in the kick-off. You could even have them then “bring” their lunch or snacks to a virtual March Madness lunch/celebration meeting that day.
4) Allow Employees to Wear Team Colors
Whether in-person or via remote virtual meetings, consider relaxing the dress code policy and encouraging employees to wear a team jersey or shirt supporting their favorite team during the college playoffs. It will create an opportunity for employees to show their personality and get to know each other better. Just remind them to keep apparel PG – no offensive language, please.
5) Decorate Workspaces
If your employees are in (or back in) the office, allow them to show off their favorite team by decorating their workspace. For remote employees, encourage them to decorate the background of their virtual meetings space. You may even consider awarding a prize to the best-decorated office and/or remote space, allowing another opportunity for employees to share their personality and team spirit in a safe, celebratory way.
Embrace the Madness of March
Embracing March Madness and building up your company’s team spirit in the process can be a real game-winning move for everyone. And during these particularly difficult times, it can be a big morale booster, both work-wise and personally. And what leader doesn’t want to support that?
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