March 30, 2008
Brackets and the Workplace
Posted by Lisa Fairfax

Since I traveled to Pittsburgh this week, I had the chance to read a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on the pros and cons of allowing employees to participate in office bracket pools.  Indeed, some offices have sought to ban such pools.  Apparently not because they may be illegal.  But rather because they may have a negative impact on employees and the workplace.  To be sure, one research firm estimates that the distraction created by basketball office pools will cost employers some $1.7 billion in wasted work time.  This estimate is based on wasted time spent on bracket-related activities from "trash talking at the water cooler" to "watching live videos of the games during business hours."  In addition, to the wasted time, one employment lawyer notes that bracket pools in the office invite trouble because things may go awry.  Such as when someone believes they should have taken first prize and instead gets third place, or worse, when the CEO wins first prize, after having pooled money with "the people in the mailroom and the messenger."  If this happens, the advice is that the CEO should buy everyone lunch instead of pocketing the money.  To be sure, despite the potential loss in productivity, most companies either encourage or do not discourage bracket pools in the office.   Such companies find that allowing employees to participate in brackets is good for employee morale, fostering a sense of community and healthy competition.  So for now, most employees are free to fill out and agonize over their brackets, even on company time.  Given the many students that participate in bracket pools, it is probably a pastime that would be very difficult for companies to disrupt.

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