A Tip for Tuesday – March Madness…or Mayhem?

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Football season? Done.

Baseball? Not quite yet.

So, what’s a sports fan to do in March?

March Madness, of course!

Each March, the nation’s best 65 college basketball teams vie for the NCAA National Championship, and many sports fans and non-fans come together on office pools, friendly wagers and bracketology.

In honor of all of our brackets, today’s tip is focused on March Madness in the office. It comes to us courtesy of a client – Shayna Balch, who is an associate at Fisher & Phillips LLP, a national labor and employment law firm with an office in Phoenix.

Take it away, Shayna:

Certainly, March Madness in the workplace is nothing new. Sports have long been distracting novelties for much of the workforce, but with the Internet and the prevalence of email communications, these distractions are even more widespread. Twenty years ago, the worst an employer would probably face is water cooler talk about the weekend's games.

Today, employers are getting more and more impatient with even the most efficient and talented employees as they spend countless work hours accessing gambling websites on company computers, taking time to exchange money, trash talking their co-workers’ favorite teams and other sometime-inappropriate behaviors.

So this March, human resources team should consider reviewing and communicating the company’s office policies on the topic to ensure good people aren’t destroying their careers in the name of March Madness.

What every employee needs to know:

  • Employers have the right to strictly enforce a non-recreational Internet use policy and monitor employee usage to ensure that workers stick to work while at their desks.
  • Employers have every right to expect employees to devote 100% of their energies to the job between stated work hours, and as long as they act consistently, can fire employees who play fantasy sports instead of working.

Yes, a newer breed of flexible manager recognizes that employees will inevitably spend work time handling personal business or surfing the Internet. And some even run March Madness office pools as a team-building activity.

But, before your team starts using office time to check out the odds in the Duke/North Carolina game, take the time to explain the company’s position so that it can be addressed in a consistent manner, whether strict, flexible or something in between. This also goes for other sports seasons such as fantasy football season in the Fall/Winter and fantasy baseball season during the summer.

There should also be material available for those who are doing more than having some March Madness fun.

Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio

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