It’s that time of year again, March Madness is in full force. For some businesses, this is great news (especially if you own a sports bar or pizza delivery place), for others it definitely takes a toll on productivity around the office. Many admit to playing hooky in the middle of the work day, or calling in sick on key game days. Today’s technology makes it much easier for employees to stream games in real time right at their desk. Studies show that during March Madness, businesses in the US will lose over a billion dollars in revenue because of low productivity.

If you try to stop the madness at your office you may be disappointed in the results, here are a few tips for making the most of it. The key is to plan ahead; you can use this time for team building and relationship building to avoid suffering a net loss.

  1. Have a clearly defined policy that provides examples of acceptable workplace activities, including use of the electronic communications systems (this should address live streaming at work).

  2. Host a March Madness event at your office – this is a great excuse to get your clients and partners to your office for some March Madness related activities and good old fashioned networking.

  3. Create a friendly office competition – post brackets up for everyone to see in a common space, such as a break room. Give out small prizes for different accomplishments (or non-accomplishments) and use this opportunity to develop team rapport and laugh a little before getting back to the daily grind.

  4. Offer an incentive for performance – set goals with your employees to see who can achieve the best results during the month of March, whether it’s a particular sales goal, department objective, or strategic milestone.

  5. Offer a flexible schedule – allow employees to take a longer lunch break if they come in early or stay late. Permitting a flexible schedule can go a long way with productivity while people are at their desk working.

Like it or not, March Madness is one of the most anticipated times of the year. Organizations of all sizes need to be prepared for possible impacts to the business. Put steps in place to reduce or eliminate risks to the business and use the time to build relationship with clients, partners, and employees.