Every year, an estimated $4B in productivity is lost nationwide due to March Madness. Millions of Americans, instead of doing real work, use their working hours to fill out brackets, chat about upsets and Cinderellas with their coworkers, and watch their favorite college basketball teams during the workday.
This is not some sort of national catastrophe or scourge--measuring “lost productivity” is a tricky exercise as is, and the communal fun of an office March Madness pool is probably good for the workplace, at least from a morale and connectivity standpoint. But any time spent doing something other than work is something that employers (probably yours!) are concerned with.
You, an Ole Miss basketball fan, may now also be concerned. Your favorite college basketball team, the Ole Miss Rebels, are an 8-seed in this year’s tournament, and face 9-seed Oklahoma tomorrow at 11:40 AM Central. That is smack dab in the middle of a traditional workday. This presents some challenges to those of you who want to remain productive, but be a loyal fan. Let us help you navigate those.
Okay, you can gamble. It’s legal, and it’s your money to do with what you want (throw it off of a boat for all I care, you’ll probably get the same end result). But oh gosh do not do it on your work computer or during work hours. A lot of the stuff you’ll see people do during this time of year--chatting about games, streaming them on office computers, and so on--is likely not resulting in anyone getting fired. Gambling, outside of innocuous office pools, during work hours and on your work machine is probably going to get you mega fired.
You thought I was going to tell you to lie, didn’t you? You figured I was going to write “just call in sick, tell them you have really bad food poisoning, or just block off your calendar with ‘IMPORTANT STUFF’ for two hours,” right?
Well you are not right. You are wrong.
I am sure you can be clever with your sick leave or extra long lunch breaks, but whatever risks you take there are your own. I won’t recommend or sanction those, because we are a #transparency website and we feel there is a better way to get to enjoy this time of year while remaining gainfully employed. If you want to use actual hours of vacation or leave time to watch basketball then, hell, go for it. That’s your time. Do whatever. Nobody cares. But, in order to do that, you do have to ask, right? Well...
Seriously, Just Ask
No, for real. Just ask. The Ole Miss vs. Oklahoma game is conveniently during the middle of the day. You were going to take a lunch break as it is, right? Ask if you can bump that out a bit and catch the game. If you’re allowed to access streaming services on your work computer, maybe you can have it on at your desk. Maybe you’ll be allowed to use a larger conference space television to watch. Maybe your coworkers and management would like to join, and you’ll be the person who came up with the fun idea for the office to order pizza and watch a game during lunch. That’s gonna look good come your performance review, y’know.
Really, this is not that tough. In my 10-ish professional years, I’ve watch March Madness under plenty of management-sanctioned circumstances:
- Several years ago, a boss of mine emerged from his office and asked me to stream a game for him. He did not know how to get any streaming services to work, but did not mind me streaming the game so long as he had the right to intermittently pester me for scores and updates. The guy was a big Minnesota fan, by the way. Go Gophers.
- When Ole Miss played Xavier in the first round of the 2015 tournament, a manager of mine knew that I was an Ole Miss fan and asked me to come into his office to help him with a project. He put the game on his office television and streamed it for me while we worked through a few tasks together. Ole Miss lost, which sucks, but we actually got some real work done, which is nice.
- Another coworker of mine from a past life was a big Indiana Hoosiers fan. He wanted to watch them lose some game to some other team (the details elude me--Wichita State maybe? Let’s say Wichita State), and wanted a few of us to join him. We obliged, and took our computers to a nearby sports bar. We connected to the WiFi and did work while eating chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks. He watched the game and got very upset about everything. The whole experience was great.
The reality of it is that employers know you’re into the tournament. Virtually everybody is. That’s fine. March Madness is like fireworks or Seinfeld reruns; it is one of the few things that we Americans all agree is very good and fun. You are going to fill out a bracket, you are going to watch the games, and you are going to have fun with it. Most employers are willing to let you have that fun. Some employers lean into this big time and have office sanctioned parties and outings. Just be clear with your expectations and, when it comes down to it, get your work done; you’ll be fine.
I am self-employed, or I work from home and none of this advice is useful to me
Cool. Watch it on TV normally then I guess? Thanks for reading.