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Walk through your corporate halls today and you might see something new on your colleague's computer screens. Next to Word, Excel, Facebook, and Slack, everyone is checking their March Madness bracket.
Is March Madness a largely harmless time suck, an inappropriate (and possibly illegal) example of gambling at the office, or the perfect corporate bonding opportunity? It depends on how you handle it.
What's Mad Is How Much Time Is Wasted
As an in-house attorney, it's not the March Madness bracket making (and constant checking) that you have to worry about. It's all the associated activities. Thanks to high speed Internet and ubiquitous Wi-Fi, workers can now watch games live as they happen -- or discuss them online, ad nauseam, for much of the day.
This year, basketball fans will spend 664 million hours, collectively, watching March Madness, according to Fortune. That's 75,700 years. A fair amount of those hours are spent at work, meaning lower (or no) productivity during game time, distracted working, and general shirking of duties.
The total cost to businesses is almost $2 billion dollars, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, which looked at the economic impact of time dedicated to streaming games and filling out brackets.
Lemons Into Lemonade
No corporate policy is going to shut down the NCAA tournament or keep sports fans from surreptitiously checking the score. But adopting some clear policies can bring a bit of sanity to March Madness.
First, consider joining the madness, not fighting it, by creating a regular viewing area for big games. Employees can stop by on their breaks, check in, and move on. Hopefully, that will lessen the amount of employees streaming matches on their work computers and help maintain productivity.
Secondly, if there are in-office brackets (formally or otherwise), there should be no betting. Unless you're in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, or Montana, the Bradley Act makes it unlawful to put cash down on a sporting event's outcome.
Finally, whether you're embracing the tournament or clamping down, remember: it's just a game, so don't be too upset when your favorite team loses to Duke.