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COMPANY CULTURE

Should You Let Your Employees Stream March Madness?

Maybe it's a big ol' distraction, but IT departments are loosening up.
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The NCAA Basketball Tournament will boil down to a couple of high-profile, prime time national championship games on April 7th (for the men's tournament) and April 8th (for the women's).

However, most basketball fans will tell you that the most exciting part of the tournament falls in its first couple of days, when the 64 teams competing for the crown are all playing in the same two-day span and TV coverage jumps from game to game. These early days of the tournament are really where the "Madness" moniker derives from.

The problem? These exciting early days fall on Thursday and Friday this week, starting at noon Eastern Time.

That scheduling begs the question: Should you let your hoops-happy employees stream the games at work?

There's no definitive answer. It's going to depend on the industry you're in, the sort of culture you're looking to foster, deadlines your company is facing, the type of work at hand, and maybe even whether the employees in question have earned the right. And even with deserving employees, some companies might prefer asking them to work from home for a couple of days rather than setting the precedent of using office time to stream their programming of choice.

But it is worth noting results of a new survey of IT professionals, showing a push toward more lax policies when it comes to streaming non-work-related content in the office.

The survey was conducted by IT staffing company Modis Staffing and showed that IT workers at less than half of companies--about 48 percent--"blocked, throttled, or banned" streaming content in 2013, down from 65 percent in 2012. The number is expected to hold about steady in 2014.

Mobile devices, the survey suggests, might play a role in this. It becomes less of a burden on a company's systems if their employees are streaming content through a 3G or 4G network on a screen separate from where they're doing their work.

Indeed, the survey also showed that while 67 percent of companies said they had to make changes or preparations for their systems ahead of the 2012 tournament, that number dipped all the way to 37 percent in 2013.

As IT policies grow more relaxed about employees watching the games, so too do corporate policies about March Madness pools among employees. More than 80 percent of companies say they don't regulate employees' participation in office pools, up from 67 percent in 2010. And many employers even stress the team building and engagement capacities the tournament represents.




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