The ‘March Madness' Effect on Company Culture — Win or Bust?

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Alana Chinn
Alana Chinn

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Welcome to HubSpot Perspectives, a series where HubSpotters weigh in on the latest conversations in business and marketing.

March Madness represented by a basketball going into a basketball hoop

OK, admit it. Have you watched a March Madness game during work hours? I may or may not have had a game on in the background working from home.

And I’m not alone. According to a recent study, over half of fans (51%) watch March Madness on the job.

This is a big reason why some say the tournament draws negatively on worker productivity. However, others argue that companies should embrace the madness for the good of company culture.

Many already have, and employees are taking full advantage. Let's unpack why.

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Featured Voices:

Why are employees joining work leagues?

It’s a good question considering this year’s numbers at HubSpot. Nearly 300 people are participating in the Men’s Bracket Games, and over 160 are participating in the Women’s Bracket Games.

For Kathryn Morris, Senior Project Manager at HubSpot, this is the first year she’s joined a March Madness tournament, ever.

"I decided to join because it was presented as a fun, lighthearted way to watch the tournament and enjoy it with other HubSpotters," says Morris. "The excitement of potentially winning a prize is also a draw."

And she's not alone. According to Statista, estimated bracket participation has increased by 41% since 2019.

Another HubSpotter has a more personal connection to the games.

"I used to work in college athletics, so March Madness was a part of my life, literally. I would be on the road for a lot of March. So when I left sports, I needed to connect with what I missed being a part of," says Shadé Olasimbo, Senior Video Producer at HubSpot.

"Being a part of a bracket challenge (or sometimes organizing them) was always a no-brainer for me."

march madness company culture quote, Stephen Fiske

And for Stephen Fiske, Head of Video at HubSpot, the spirit of competition and opportunity to connect with colleagues were big draws for joining in.

"I know absolutely nothing about college basketball, but anything can happen in March Madness, so I’d like to think I have a (very) small chance at winning it all," says Fiske.

"And I always enjoy some friendly competition with coworkers, especially with people who I don’t work with on a regular basis."

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    So do 80% of employees who also believe it’s beneficial to have a little “healthy competition” at work.

    There seems to be a common theme throughout each of these perspectives: connection.

    March Madness creates connection.

    This optimistic aspect of work leagues is the main argument against concerns around productivity. And HubSpotters agree that March Madness does have a positive impact on company culture.

    "It gives people something to rally around, chat about, but also as a College Ball fan, it's a way to connect with people who might not be as into the sport as I am," says Olasimbo. "Filling out a bracket, having it crumble in front of you, and commiserating with colleagues over it is all part of the fun."

    Stephen adds, "It’s a great way to encourage people on different teams, who don’t typically cross paths at work, to chat and exchange some friendly banter."

    march madness company culture quote, Shadé Olasimbo

    Considering 63% of fans are actually filling out a bracket with their colleagues, it’s clear there’s a sense of community that comes along with the games.

    March Madness also empowers employees to take a (mental) load off.

    "I think March Madness is good," says Morris. "We get to interact with new people, and chat about non-work related topics in a low stakes environment. It's a nice mental break from work focused activities."

    Zipdo found that 85% of employees believe workplace environment affects their mood and productivity. Creating connection and good vibes through March Madness may just be a small win for your employees.

    There’s magic in the madness.

    There’s a good chance employees are going to watch the tournament at work whether they’re participating in a company league or not.

    Here's my take: I’d say three weeks of distraction is worth embracing if it means fostering relationships and building long-term morale.

    Bonus: Who’s taking it all this year?

    We couldn't come all this way without telling you who we picked to win the trophy:

    • Kathryn’s picks: UConn (Men’s), Iowa (Women’s)
    • Shadé’s picks: UConn (Men’s), South Carolina (Women’s)
    • Stephen’s picks: UConn (Men’s), Iowa (Women’s)
    • Alana’s picks: Houston (Men’s), South Carolina (Women’s)

    Can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

    Want to hear our thoughts about a specific topic? Drop your idea in this form, and we may just feature it in an upcoming post.

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