With the start of the NCAA tournament comes the inevitable distraction of those having to work while the games are on. Many will watch the first two rounds online for free, courtesy of CBSSports.com, which will cause a significant drop-off in employee productivity today and tomorrow. Some estimate that the games today and tomorrow will generate up to $1.7B in lost productivity (courtesy of Newsweek, 3/20/08).
Some companies will attempt to counter this by blocking web access to the CBS Sports website. Now while I will not try to argue that showing the games online will distract employees, I want to propose the idea that this corporate move to block the online video feed will ultimately have a worse effect than simply allowing the employees to watch. By preventing access to the website:
- More employees will simply call out sick to watch the game, possibly forcing companies to hire temporary workers or pay others overtime to make up for lost productivity.
- Employees will have a negative reaction to their employer’s “Big Brother”-style of monitoring their behavior, generating a cultural trickle-down effect that could hurt productivity for weeks afterwards.
- Some employees could be so turned off to their employer’s decision that they may pursue an different job altogether, generating additional costs for seeking and training a new, replacement employee.
- Finally, some employees may spend significant additional time trying to find a way around the site being blocked, which will just increase the amount of lost productivity from that employee.
So, rather than blocking the site, why not embrace this once-a-year situation! Run a morale-building company event on Thursday or Friday, based around the “March Madness” theme. Allow for flex-time hours to let people finish their work before or after the games. Set specific goals to accomplish, and tell employees that they can watch the game as long as X, Y, and Z still happen. An event like the NCAA Tournament should present an opportunity to a company, if they can look at it with the right perspective!