Hoosier Hysteria… in the Office?

Hoosier Hysteria… in the Office?

By Melissa McNall, branch manager at Robert Half in Indianapolis

For as long as I can remember, college basketball has been a part of my life. As a child, I recall the thrill of cheering for the underdog, leaping out of my seat at last-minute shots and watching with wide-eyes the passion these student athletes had for their sport. That excitement followed me well into adulthood:  I graduated from Butler University, where the final game of Hoosiers was filmed in the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse (formerly Butler Fieldhouse), and I root for my beloved Bulldogs to this day.

It’s no secret that Indiana is an incredibly special place for college basketball, which is likely why Indianapolis topped the list of 28 cities (tying with Des Moines) with the highest number of senior managers (83%) who believe participating in March Madness activities in the office improves staff morale, according to a recent Robert Half survey. In fact, 84% of Indianapolis employers organize sports-related festivities, such as friendly competitions (brackets without exchanging money), wearing jerseys from their favorite team and decorating their workspaces.

Game On! Basketball fun at work.

The survey also revealed that, while 53% of senior managers in Indianapolis believe these activities improve productivity, 49% of employees in the Midwest said they are distracted by sports at work. These conflicting sentiments on March Madness in the office could pose a problem, so what’s the right thing for employers to do?

Celebrating sporting events like March Madness in the workplace can foster team spirit. It provides an opportunity for workers to bond as they talk about scores and root for their favorite schools. It also allows for short breaks throughout the day, which can help prevent burnout. Whether or not a company organizes activities around sporting events like March Madness, it’s very likely that there will be buzz around the office. However, it could negatively impact productivity and performance if not managed correctly. Having designated office festivities allows employees to enjoy sporting events during a specific time and activity.

Here are a few tips for managers on how to effectively celebrate March Madness in the workplace:

  • Grant time-outs. Allowing employees to take quick breaks to check scores or chat with coworkers about the tournament can help them recharge. An informal lunch or dinner at a restaurant to watch a big game also can build camaraderie. Some companies even go so far as to shut down the office early on the first Friday of March Madness to cater in food and throw a party.
  • Foster friendly competition. Let staff wear their favorite teams’ apparel or decorate their workspaces, within reason, to get in the spirit. Consider organizing an office competition where individuals can win bragging rights or small items such as trophies or company-awarded gift certificates without the exchange of money.
  • Go over the rules. Clearly communicate policies regarding employee breaks and Internet use so professionals know what’s acceptable when it comes to March Madness and other non-work activities.
  • Take the lead. Set a good example by showing how to participate in tournament festivities without getting sidelined from responsibilities. If you complete assignments before talking hoops, employees will likely follow suit.
  • Evaluate your bench. If team members want to take time off to watch the playoffs, ask them to submit requests as far in advance as possible. This will help you manage workloads and determine if interim assistance is needed to keep projects on track.

For workers, here are a few do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t make a game-time decision. Do let your boss know in advance if you’d like to take time off to enjoy the tournament so they can manage workloads.
  • Don’t step out of bounds. Do find out company policies on employee breaks, personal Internet use, workplace decorations and sports attire.
  • Don’t run out the clock. Do take quick breaks to check scores or talk about games with colleagues, if allowed, but stay on top of your work responsibilities.
  • Don’t be offensive. Do cheer on your favorite team without getting overly competitive.
  • Don’t sit on the sidelines. Do join in on activities with coworkers to build camaraderie, even if you’re not a sports fan. It’s a great opportunity to get to know each other.

That’s enough sports references for now, so I’ll end by encouraging local employers to foster a workplace where employees take pride in their company, feel appreciated for their work and are treated with fairness and respect. Events like March Madness are great opportunities to demonstrate that you not only understand your workers’ excitement, you embrace and celebrate it.

Happy March Madness – let’s make it a great one!


Melissa McNall is branch manager of Robert Half in Indianapolis. Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world’s first and largest staffing firm and has more than 400 locations worldwide. Additional career and management advice is available on the Robert Half blog.

Click to share!