While research tells us March Madness doesn’t exactly boost productivity, it presents an excellent opportunity for teams to bond and win a few company culture points.
Last year, a quarter of the NCAA fans we surveyed said they watched March Madness games in secret while at work, including from inside the bathroom. While managers could curb this behavior with disciplinary action or over-the-stall surveillance, a better approach might be taking the adage to heart: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
3-pointer party games, activities, and prizes
That’s what it’s all about: Celebrating the competition with even more competition. Just keep the trash talk to a minimum, lest any retribution creep into that end-of-year review (come on, Jerry, can’t you take a joke?).
1. May the best bracket win
This is an easy one. Print off the NCAA’s official 2019 bracket, and see who can best predict this season’s winners.
2. Host your own March Madness game—office-style
You don’t need a regulation court to cream your co-workers. A couple of (clean) garbage cans and a ball that fits inside will do. Clear an open space and go three-on-three, using office chairs to get around. Create your own bracket with team names for each three-player group, and roll your team to victory.
3. Trivia bingo for dedicated fans
For those who’ve been studying players, teams, stats, and history since they were old enough to dribble, give them a chance to show off that knowledge with a friendly game of trivia bingo.
Take the answers from a basketball trivia quiz, and plug them into a make-it-yourself bingo card generator. Then, call out the questions one at a time, or play the long game with one question per day. Players will have to know the answer to each trivia question and get five in a row on their Bingo card to win.
As for prizes, trophies are an obvious choice. But if you’re feeling more generous, why not give away tickets to a local game? College, NBA, or WNBA games, or even a Harlem Globetrotters performance, would all be acceptable and fun. Or award your star employees with mini hoops and basketballs, so they can shoot for three from their desks.
Get an educational assist
If your team enjoys reading business books from time to time, work the March Madness theme into your curriculum. Many basketball greats—coaches and players alike—are also good leaders. Take Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA history.
“I’ve read all her books, during and after the time she led the women’s Tennessee basketball team to several championships,” says Kelsie Gwin, leader of the brand and communications team at TSheets. “She always played with a true team-first, not self-first, approach. She’s as fierce of a competitor as you can probably get. But she did it in the vein of doing good for the team—for everyone—on and off the court.”
Gwin recommends leaders and employees alike check out Summitt’s “Reach for the Summit: The Definite Dozen System for Succeeding at Whatever You Do.” Other inspiring reads, helpful for basketball-lovers and leaders alike, include:
- “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” by Kobe Bryant
- “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success” by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty
- “Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization” by John Wooden and Steve Jamison
Food: Stock up on stadium staples
Let’s be clear: No matter what kind of activity you host, food is a must. A good place to start is with stadium-style foods—the kinds of snacks might you eat courtside.
Shoot for sports-bar fare like wings, wraps, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, sliders, and nachos. Or keep it small and simple with microwave-oven approved snacks:
- Soft pretzels with mustard dipping sauce
- Pigs in a blanket with ketchup and relish
- Tortilla chips and cheese dip
For a more competitive twist, take company rivalries kitchen-side with a March Madness slider competition. Think potluck-style eats with sweet, spicy, or savory flavors. From pulled pork sandwiches to tempeh bites to mini burgers, this one is one March Madness event sure to become a company favorite.
Party like it’s halftime
Basketball isn’t everybody’s sport, but it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement that is March Madness. Taking the time to celebrate together, rather than calling out hardcore fans for their distracted behavior, can help build positive relationships and camaraderie. And that’s a slam dunk for any work environment.