Should businesses embrace March Madness?

It’s time for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, and millions of Americans have filled out their brackets, started office pools, and are prepared to stream games to their mobile devices at work – potentially costing businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity.

But instead of fighting March Madness, corporate America should embrace the opportunity to boost morale and forge a more cohesive workforce, said Ben Wright, a Ball State University marketing professor.

He believes companies should integrate college basketball into the workplace.

“We have to remember that some fans — which is short for fanatics — spend months simply anticipating this time of year, spending untold hours to create and then meticulously follow their brackets,” said Wright, who added that a recent estimate by the Bleacher Report suggests that as many as 70 million brackets will be filled out in 2017. “As the popularity of March Madness has grown, it is nonsensical for managers to expect employees to enjoy the tournament only outside work hours. In fact, instead of blocking, banning or slowing down streaming capability during March Madness, many companies are encouraging employees to watch the games.”

The two NCAA tournaments run from today until early April. Wright advocates businesses have clearly defined policies about live streaming at work, employee banter about the games, and office pools.

“Most companies have moved to an ‘ante-free’ pool, where no money is required for entry to a March Madness bracket competition due to legal reasons and the increased awareness of potential gambling addictions,” he said.

A report by the American Gambling Association estimated last year’s March Madness betting total exceeded $9 billion.

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