It never fails -- every time the NCAA men's basketball tournament starts, every media outlet dusts off the same story they run every year about how March Madness is bad for work productivity.
- The New York Daily News: March Madness is bad for business, employee productivity will drop
- The Washington Business Journal: Start of March Madness excites fans, but saps office productivity
- The Everett (Wash.) Herald: March Madness means drop in workplace productivity
You get the point.
And here's what I say to that: Bull.
Consider all the other distractions we have at work: Facebook, Twitter, online game, Internet gossip sites, gossiping live and in person with your co-workers, personal e-mail, taking a long lunch .... need I go on?
As economist Richard Clinch told me during an interview I conducted this week for The Daily Record, "It all comes out in the wash." At most jobs where you are allowed the distraction, (i.e. office environment with your own computer) you also have, you know, actual work assigned to you. And your boss expects you to do it by a certain time. What you don't get done because you were catching sneak peaks of a tight game, you'll make up later.
Here's how Tim Watkins, the founder of a production company north of Baltimore put it: "Especially in this environment if you're not a good employee ... that’ll surface anyway."
Here's another possibility: the time you fill up with March Madness highlights at work replaces the time you used before to catch up on the news, peruse Facebook, etc.
And lastly, a lot of people I've talked to believe that if you're generally happy with your employees, it's a good morale boost to encourage excitement around the national tournament. It's one of those rare events where even the fly-by-night fan can feel a part of.
Or you could just ban a lot of Web sites and streaming audio/video like they do at my husband's office. (See my August 2009 Farmer's Field post for more on that.)
So stop being Scrooges and let people come together over March Madness. The good will could go a long way toward your employees happiness.