Tag Archives: workplace productivity


Taking A Gamble On March Madness

Office pools and social gambling can be harmless fun — if the rules are followed

Every human resources department in Arizona would flip a chip if employees set up a poker table in the middle of the boardroom and started playing Texas Hold ‘Em in the middle of the work day. But somehow, gambling in March Madness office pools gets a free pass.

“For many of us, March Madness is a rite of passage in the spring,” says Pavneet Uppal, managing partner of Fisher & Phillips in Phoenix. “It’s a chance to build camaraderie with co-workers through office pools, a chance to reconnect with college friends during games and a chance to indulge in a few chicken wings with the family.”

March Madness — the nickname given to the NCAA basketball tournament — is the nation’s largest gambling event. Conservative estimates project that more than $2.5 billion will be wagered on the tournament, which doubles the amount bet each year on the Super Bowl. More importantly for employers, March Madness costs anywhere from $1.4 billion to $3.8 billion in lost employee productivity each year.

Lost productivity aside, is it legal to bet in March Madness office pools?

“Under Arizona statute, March Madness pools are not illegal if they meet the four criteria of legal social gambling,” says Melissa Costello, an attorney in Bryan Cave’s labor and employment group.

The four criteria of legal social gambling are:
1. All of the participants compete on equal terms.
2. Each participant is at least 21 years old.
3. The participants can only receive winnings, and no other benefit.
4. No non-participant will gain any benefit from the pool.

“If an office pool does not meet all of the criteria for legal ‘social gambling,’ a company that allows an office pool could be charged with a class 5 felony if it conducts, organizes, manages, directs, supervises, finances, or furnishes advice or assistance in promoting the office pool,” Costello says. “A felony conviction could subject the company to a significant fine.”

If the office pool does not meet the ‘social gambling’ criteria, the organizer of the pool could also be charged with a class 5 felony for promoting illegal gambling and, if found guilty, could be sentenced to jail time and ordered to pay a significant fine, Costello warns.

“There can be numerous (other) legal issues, particularly if the gambling crosses state lines,” says Craig O’Loughlin, a partner with Quarles & Brady. “There can be IRS issues with winnings, (and) whistleblower issues.”

Beyond the legal ramifications of office pools, a Spherion study found that 52 percent of human resources executives say their top priority this year is cost containment. March Madness — accompanied by excessive score-checking and an exorbitant amount of water cooler game analysis — erodes workplace productivity and can jeopardize cost-saving measures.

“Employers have every right to expect employees to devote 100 percent of their energies to the job between stated work hours, and as long as they act consistently, can fire employees who play fantasy sports instead of working,” Uppal advises. “Human resources teams should consider reviewing and communicating the company’s office policies on the topic to ensure good people aren’t destroying their careers in the name of March Madness.”

Uppal says many managers are beginning to recognize and accept that employees will spend a portion of their work day handling personal business or surfing the Internet. And some even run March Madness pools as a team-building activity.

“If the employer sponsors (March Madness pools), make the entry free, and have prizes for the winners,” O’Loughlin says. “Also, know the tax ramifications of the prizes.”

Even if employers feel disinclined to allow March Madness office pools because they are a drain on employee productivity and efficiency, the reality is that employees will likely still participate in pools outside of the office, Costello says.

“Office pools should not be official company events, but rather than spend energy prohibiting office pools that meet the ‘social gambling’ criteria, employers should consider using March Madness as a tool for developing employee relationships and increasing morale, such as by inviting employees to wear a shirt from their alma mater on game days, hosting viewing parties during lunch hours, or providing basketball-themed snack breaks in the afternoon.”

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

Office Productivity, Interior Design

Dispelling Myths Of Workplace Productivity From An Interior Design Prospective

It’s no secret that our immediate surroundings tremendously impact on how we feel.  Colors, materials, fabrics and lighting play a big part in creating an atmosphere or “mood” — something that we all are accustomed to in resorts, restaurants and stores.

But what about setting the right atmosphere the office? Most people spend more than 50 percent of their lives in an indoor setting, and most employers realize the link between interior design and worker productivity.

For small and mid-size businesses that have limited resources to dedicate to interior design, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate the hype over real needs. Out of the numerous studies conducted on this topic, experts agree that the productivity of the work is affected by four main components: temperature, air quality, light and noise levels in the office.

And that’s why we decided to dedicate this article to highlighting the top three biggest myths about the impact of interior design on productivity.

Open Floorplan

While open floorplans are a great way to foster collaboration between employees, they do not work for every business. Many employees become distracted by the noise and the constant movement around them and are unable to focus. So before you tear out the cubicle walls, think about your employees and their needs.

There are innovative, beautiful privacy screen options that may be a better fit for your office over open desks. These movable screens allow for the flexibility of various activities allowing for options of collaborative or private spaces.

Natural Light

While there is no substitute for natural sunshine, some interior office environments are not possible to structurally change. The good news is that by creating a well-lit workplace with lighting that mimics the natural sunshine, worker productivity remains the same.

If it’s impossible to create skylights, try the innovative lighting options, such as light box walls.  The impact of color palette and texture should not be underestimated to improve an interior space and capture a pleasant atmosphere.

Place to Play

A look at Google’s offices made every business owner envious of Google’s tremendous resources. The most admired rooms were the common lounge areas designed for resting and playing.

But before you convert your conference room to a “creative think-tank” with ping pong tables and foosball or a climbing wall, consider again your employees, their needs and your business style. Often these costly features have gone less used than the financial investment justified.

What’s truly important is providing your team with a place that is conducive to their work.  Inspiring? Yes. Stimulating? Yes! Creative? Yes! But most of all, a place that efficiently supports functional requirements for the work task is required.

When designing your office, a survey of your work force will provide great insight to the perceptions and needs of your staff.  An interior designer or architect can provide a comprehensive questionnaire and interview process to skillfully uncover the true needs within your company so intelligent programming can be established leading to goal-based solutions. Control over their workspace for privacy, temperature and lighting typically lead the list of employee requests. Often these requests can be more easily accommodated than management expects.

There is no doubt that where we spend a majority of our time greatly impacts our overall well being and thus productivity. In fact, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID, 1999) carried out an independent study and revealed that the physical workplace design is one of the top three factors, which affects performance and job satisfaction. The study results showed that 31 percent of people were satisfied with their jobs and had pleasing workplace environments. Fifty percent of people were seeking jobs and said that they would prefer a job in a company where the physical environment is good.

While an indoor sports court and climbing wall can be wonderful luxuries, simpler solutions also exist to make a work environment pleasant and efficient and keep a team happy.

For more information about creating a productive workplace environment, visit the interior design studio, IMI Design, online.