Some companies use March Madness to boost morale

The Baltimore Sun

It's that time of the year again: March Madness. And that means sneaking in a peek at the game online and other distractions at work.

With workers playing office pools and keeping track of their favorite teams, the annual event could cost employers as much as $1.7 billion in productivity losses during the 16 workdays that started March 17 and end April 7, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a global outplacement firm in Chicago.

Employers are worried not just about work not getting done but also that their network servers would be slowed by workers watching games live on their computers, Challenger says.

Still, some companies are taking the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude when it comes to the college basketball tournament. Challenger says such tactics can build morale in the office. Some employers are organizing free office pools, setting up a television for game-watching in break rooms and holding parties.

Accounting and consulting firm KPMG's Baltimore office, for instance, is sponsoring a bowling party tomorrow to celebrate the tournament.

Ellen Marecki, the Baltimore office's senior associate of resource management and "involve coordinator" (aka volunteer and community events coordinator), says the event also gives busy accountants and other support staff a break during the hectic tax season.

The Baltimore office also is sponsoring an office pool in which the $5 entry fee is donated to My Sister's Place Women's Center in Baltimore - in honor of Women's History Month.

Last year, the office raised $400 for House of Ruth, a domestic violence safe house and advocacy group.

The top three employees with the most correct picks will win prizes, such as sweat shirts.

"We feel that we need to do something to get them out of work and do something fun and help My Sister's Place with our contribution," Marecki says.

Is your employer making accommodations for March Madness?

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