Not Quite So Mad: Managing NCAA Distraction


The last few years, there's been a rash of coverage around this time in March about how the NCAA men's basketball tournament is a productivity killer. I haven't seen such a glut of coverage this year -- perhaps because I imagine the the actual impact of employees watching and talking about games has been wildly overstated by productivity experts and such looking to piggyback on the days' (or weeks') big news item.


I did find a release today from a company named Streamcore that is promising to help manage your bandwidth and ensure that key applications (of course) stay up as your employees watch games on Internet video streams.


I am in no position to comment on the virtues of Streamcore's technology, but it does seem to me that the one real concern -- or at least the concern that a business is in any position to do anything about -- is the risk to your network of too many video streams.


My solution?


Be flexible and let your folks go catch the big game on that arcane 20th Century tech, a TV. There's probably a pretty good-sized one in an establishment near your office. If you have a break room, roll in a set and let folks watch the action there, in a somewhat controlled environment.


In exchange, let everybody know that streaming video at their stations is off limits, or strongly discouraged, or however your IT department communicates such issues to users. And then follow up with a stern e-mail if usage monitoring makes it clear that folks are watching games at their desks.


Understand, my fellow VP Jeff Yocom and I scheduled a pretty important meeting last week around a conference tourney game for our beloved alma -- and #1 seed -- the Louisville Cardinals. This morning, our CFO stopped by my office to chat hoops (she's a Kentucky fan, but at work you have to let these things ride).


There are just some situations in which you are not going to win if you try to be a hardliner and demand unwavering focus on work. Employees are going to shop online during work hours; they are going to make personal phone calls during work hours; and at this time of year, they are going to watch basketball games during work hours. Our Ann All noted last year that the average employee was projected to spend 13.5 minutes a day keeping up with the March Madness, by one analysis. Seriously -- do you think they don't spend that much time on Facebook or YouTube in August?


Just rolling with it will help you contain that distraction, so that it does not consume an entire work day, or bring down your network.


And really, how much faith would you put into spreadsheet analysis done by somebody who has a basketball game playing in the background on their PC?