Every March, the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament featuring 68 teams takes place. With the first-round games set to start in the middle of the workday this week, it is worth considering how your office plans to address the madness. Given the popularity and length of the tournament, there is the potential that it will have an impact on your workplace.

Whether employees spend work time watching the games or filling out brackets, their workplace productivity and engagement may take a hit during the span of the tournament. According to a study by WalletHub, the average worker spent six paid hours watching the games in 2018.

Based on this statistic, your initial reaction may be to crack down on activities related to the tournament, but that may not be the best solution. Many employees are excited about the tournament and view it as a way to boost morale. Additionally, allowing such activities or game viewing in moderation can encourage cross-departmental communication and employee engagement.

Deciding whether or not to allow employees to participate is a decision only your business can make. While the tournament has the potential to result in negative workplace effects, it can also encourage team building and be a fun outlet for many employees. Consider your company culture and the interest level of your employees.

You should treat the tournament like any other potential workplace distraction. For example, if you allow employees to participate in fantasy football leagues, it might be confusing if you don’t allow them to participate in bracket challenges or tournament-related activities. Whatever your decision, make sure to communicate it to employees. If you decide to allow employees to participate, be sure to emphasize that employees shouldn’t spend an excessive amount of time on tournament-related activities.

Here are some tips to help you prepare your business:

  • Be aware of applicable gambling laws. Some states make an exemption for “social gambling,” but often place limits on how much money can be awarded. If you have employees playing in offices in different states, this could also pose a legal risk. While enforcement of social gambling may not be high, you want to ensure you’re giving consistent messaging to employees.
  • Outline the extent to which employees can participate in activities during work and if they can use company property to do so. If you choose to allow employees to use work time to set a bracket or watch the tournament, explain early on that this does not give them permission to neglect their work. Set clear, realistic expectations.
  • Train supervisors to identify any possible issues of exclusion relating to fantasy sports in order to avoid issues down the road.

These ideas can help your company be prepared to handle concerns that may result during this time of year.