With March Madness ramping up, employers may wonder if they can monitor their employees’ activity and check their effective productivity. While there are a number of other priorities that rank higher than breaking up an office pool, companies should be aware of what employees are doing. It's a good idea to be clear with employees about what is and isn't allowed.
Each organization must consider also if it needs to remind employees that working time is for work. Also, reminding employees of attendance policies can hopefully reduce unplanned and unscheduled absences that can leave employers short-staffed.
In addition, if there is a pool, it should be made completely voluntary, with no buy-in and with a non-cash prize, such as a prize basket, movie or theatre tickets, a gift card, a contribution to a charity of the winner’s choice, or a complimentary dinner. Employers who permit or conduct workplace pools or contests, however, need to avoid making employees uncomfortable. No one should be prevented from doing his or her job or be mistreated for not being interested in the tournaments.
Companies may also encourage employees to wear their college colors and engage in positive team spirit when their team plays. If temporary dress code modifications are permitted, ensure the rules are clear. Consider a breakroom with the television on so that employees can watch the games during breaks. This can cut down on employees watching on their computers and possibly slowing down the network as well as create a meeting place to foster the potential benefits of boosting morale and camaraderie.
Even though sports betting is generally illegal, most MRA members who responded to a poll on this topic in recent years indicated they do not have a policy on gambling in the workplace, mostly because the stakes are generally low and it creates a fun atmosphere. For those that have noticed it becoming a major workplace distraction, MRA has a sample policy in the HR Resource Center that could be used to help clarify expectations.
Source: Lynell Meeth, HR Business Advisor, MRA – The Management Association; CCH/Wolters Kluwer