March Madness is upon us once again, which means employees up and down the country will be busy filling out brackets and joining the office pool.
And they won't be in the minority: 71.5 percent of respondents to Vault's 2011 Office Betting Survey admitted to taking part in some kind of office pool. Of those, some 65 percent said that their workplace gambling had included an NCAA bracket. That figure trumps all other forms of workplace betting, including Super Bowl boxes (58 percent) and Oscars pools (just 13 percent of respondents had gambled on any kind of awards show).
The rise of March Madness as the nation's favorite office pool is a recent phenomenon. The last time we at Vault conducted the Office Betting survey—in 2008—the Super Bowl was the most gambled-upon event in the annual calendar, with 51 percent of respondents having participated, compared to just 48 percent for March Madness.
Regardless of what activity they're choosing to bet a portion of their hard-earned cash on, workers need to be careful not to spend too much of their on-the-clock time making or obsessing over their picks. While 77 percent of employees claim to spend less than half an hour of work time a day on their picks (with many spending no time at all), any perception that you're shirking your duties in favor of gambling is likely to be viewed dimly by at least some colleagues.
"The next time I see [colleagues using work time to focus on office pools], I'm going to put an anonymous note on all the bosses desks to make them aware” warns one respondent. (Presumably they fall into the 22 percent of respondents who disapprove of workplace betting altogether.)
All told, most respondents seem to view workplace gambling as a means of having some fun in the office—with bosses and CEO's even participating in many cases. But if you have any doubts at all, investigate fully before choosing to participate—gambling of any kind is prohibited in many places, and frowned upon by some employers even where it's legal. And be sure to check that company handbook—47 percent of respondents to the survey had no idea whether their company even had a policy.
For the most part, employers don't seem to mind an occasional office pool, provided it doesn't become too competitive, or disrupt productivity too much. “Office betting can be a harmless practice that gets colleagues to pull their heads out of the daily vortex, and join together for a few minutes of fun," says Vault's career expert, Vicki Lynn. "And many welcome the newbies to the office pool, if only to grow the pot on the birth date of a colleague’s baby, who will win the Oscars or American Idol, and which team will emerge victorious in the NCAA tournament. But spending too much time going over picks, researching teams, watching games or discussing the betting pool will raise a red flag with managers and could become problematic. It’s best to keep the fun to an acceptable minimum.”
Check out the full results from the survey in this slideshow:
Vault 2011 Office Betting Survey