In new research from global staffing firm Robert Half, 72 percent of senior managers said college basketball tournament activities have a positive impact on staff morale. More than half of survey respondents (52 percent) also see productivity benefits.

Many employers are ready to play ball: 75 percent of companies organize sports-related festivities. Friendly competitions (45 percent) and wearing team apparel (43 percent) top the list of activities offered.

“Many companies recognize it’s impractical to try to downplay the office buzz around major sporting events like March Madness,” said Stephanie Naznitsky, executive director of OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half. “Organizing activities tied to sports can provide welcome distractions that help lift workers’ spirits and engagement.”

Naznitsky added, “Employees just need to remember to play by the rules. Make sure completing assignments remains the top priority by staying within company guidelines and celebrating in moderation.”

Additional findings:

  • Among the 28 U.S. cities in the survey, managers in Des Moines, Indianapolis (83 percent each) and Raleigh (82 percent) see the biggest morale boosts from college basketball playoff activities.
  • Miami (65 percent), Los Angeles (64 percent) and Detroit (60 percent) have the largest number of executives who said tournament festivities improve productivity.
  • Companies in Des Moines (86 percent), Austin, Chicago and Indianapolis (84 percent each) most commonly organize activities to celebrate events like March Madness.
  • Forty-nine percent of employees said they are distracted at work by sports, up from 38 percent in 2016.
  • More male professionals (64 percent) admitted to being sidetracked than women (33 percent). Employees ages 18 to 34 (66 percent) reported being distracted the most, compared to those ages 35 to 54 (43 percent) and 55 and older (27 percent).

About the Research

The online surveys were developed by Robert Half and conducted by independent research firms. They include responses from more than 2,800 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in 28 major U.S. cities and more than 1,000 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments in the U.S.