March Madness? Survey Finds Only 11% of Workers Into Office Pools This Year

Every year, I get bombarded with PR people wanting to connect me to “experts” who want to yak about how disruptive “March Madness” — the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament — is on the workplace.

And every year, I ignore those PR people and the experts they’re pushing because I’ve never seen or heard of anyone actually reporting that their workplace has significantly been impacted by March Madness.

I’m sure it happens somewhere, but in general, all the talk about it is overblown.

That’s why this new poll from CareerBuilder was very welcome news, because it shows just how little impact March Madness actually has when it comes to your workforce.

Only 11% involved in March Madness pools

Here’s the key finding: According to the CareerBuilder survey, only one in five (19 percent) of workers said they’ve participated in a March Madness office pool in the past, while only 11 percent said they plan to this year.

Yes, you read that right. Only 11 percent of workers say they are going to be involved in a March Madness pool this year. Where are all the experts to comment on THAT?

Well, if you are one of those who still believe that your employees are wasting too much time worrying about their March Madness brackets, the CareerBuilder survey also revealed this:

  • Directors, managers and team leaders were the most likely to report partaking in March Madness pools (24 percent said they would), while entry-level and administrative/clerical workers were the least likely to be involved at 14 percent.
  • When comparing compensation levels, 33 percent of workers who earn six figures or more said they’ve participated in office pools around the tournament compared to 18 percent of those who earn less than $100,000 annually. And, 25 percent of workers who earn $50,000 or more have placed their bets compared to 14 percent of those who earn less than $50,000.

In other words, the people you most need to worry about wasting time on March Madness in the office are your managers and highly paid people. Somehow, all those experts never mentioned that, either.

Younger workers like basketball pools

Here are a couple more interesting findings from the CareerBuilder survey:

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  • Men have shown a greater likelihood to place a March Madness wager at work, which should come as no surprise to women in the workforce. The survey found that 26 percent of men have participated in March Madness office pools, double the percentage of women (13 percent).
  • NCAA office pools are particularly popular among younger workers. The survey found that some 22 percent of workers ages 25-34 have participated in pools at work in the past and 16 percent plan to do so this year, the highest of any age group.

Other pools your workers are involved in

Actually, the part of the CareerBuilder survey I enjoyed the most was about the “other” office pools that workers get involved in. This is a fun list, so see how many of these sound familiar to you. Full disclosure: I have wagered a dollar or two on more than one of these.

They include:

  • Betting on who could raise the best-looking Chia Pet;
  • Betting on when a co-worker would be fired;
  • Betting on how long the boss’s marriage would last;
  • Betting on how many times the boss would call a female direct report “girl” in one day;
  • Betting on when a coworker would change his shirt, which he wore for 11 consecutive days;
  • Betting on how much time someone would get when convicted of a crime;
  • Betting on how many electoral votes the presidential candidates would receive;
  • Betting on how many times the plant manager coughed during a meeting (indicating a lie);
  • Betting on the birth date of Prince William and Duchess Kate’s baby.

What do these pools say about employee engagement?

The thing about this last list is that it shows that workers bet on all sorts of things in the workplace, and that March Madness is probably the least of your worries if you’re concerned about how your workforce is spending their time.

This survey was conducted online in the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,008 workers ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between Nov. 6 and Dec. 2, 2013 .With a pure probability sample of 3,008, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 1.79 percentage points.

One more thing: is it possible that workers who are involved in office pools like the one detailed in this CareerBuilder survey are actually MORE engaged in the workforce than employees who are not involved in things like this?

I don’t know the answer, but it sounds like a good survey for the next time people start obsessing over March Madness at work.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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