What are the odds of March Madness improving office productivity?

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

As the NCAA basketball tournament kicks off this week, should employers be cheering or groaning? That depends on what studies you read.

Tell any business owner that the tournament will improve their employees’ productivity and they’ll say that’s about as probable as Iowa making the final four. In fact, a study this week by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported in Fox Business estimated that 51 million office workers will participate in office pools during March Madness and cause employers to lose a whopping $4 billion in productivity. Sounds like it’s bad for business.

Or not.

The results from another recent survey takes a more contrarian – and more positive – view of March Madness in the workplace. The study, conducted on behalf of a human resources firm, says that office pools surrounding the tournament makes people’s jobs more enjoyable. Three quarters of the 1,200 people surveyed said March Madness pools make them look forward to coming to work more, according to this report on Bloomberg.

Sure, it can be a distraction. Seventy-six percent of those same people said they check scores during the workday and more than half watch the games at the office. But this kind of thing makes people happy and as employers we want our employees to be happy, right?

The Bloomberg report cites previous studies that show how happier workers are more productive and productivity means profits. Even Andrew Challenger agrees.  “Efforts to suppress the Madness would mostly likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity,” he said to Fox Business. “And, with labor markets getting tighter and tighter, employers would be better off embracing March Madness.”

So let’s embrace March Madness and have fun with our office pools. And let’s go ‘Nova!

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