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4 Sane Responses When March Madness Grips Your Business The annual college basketball tournament has an unbreakable grip on the nation's attention span for one month every year. You're way better off trying to make it work for you.

By Bob Wright Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Stephen Nowland | NCAA Photos | Facebook

The 2016 Men's NCAA March Madness is upon us. When the Madness starts, people are tempted to call in sick or leave the office for extra-long breaks. Your sales staff on the road may hang out for excessively long times in sports restaurants. These sorts of activities will likely cost your organization some of the more than $1.9 billion in productivity lost by American businesses, as estimated last year by Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc.

An MSN Survey reportedly found that 56 percent of all workers planned to spend at least one hour on "Madness" happenings, from television to sports bars, and 86 percent of them will be devoting time to updating their brackets. After all, it takes time to wait with baited breath and fill in the names of their picks at each level when they advance (or think up excuses why their favorites got blown out).

It is all in good fun, but it's at your expense.

Face it -- people of all stripes and inclinations will be filling out their own brackets. Even people who never watch basketball will become passionately engaged in the contest.

If you're asking yourselves if you can stop March Madness from distracting your team (the one in the office), the answer is "no.'' If you try to stop the madness, you're just stepping in front of a speeding train. When the First Fan, a.k.a President Obama, fills out his bracket prognostications, it becomes un-American to get in the way of the madness freight train.

If you can beat "em, join "em. Plan ahead. The best defense may be to go with the flow and win enough good will to avoid suffering a net loss. Find ways to engage clients, customers, providers and even extended family of staff. Make it pay for your company. Here are some ideas.

1. Make an event out of it.

Host a March Madness event at your office. Use it as an excuse to engage and build relationships with your customers and suppliers. You can hold events at your office as an "invite all open house" or host events off site. Create March madness related giveaways, raffles and activities that are fun and good for morale and team building.

Related: Eliminate These 8 Distractions That Are Killing Your Productivity

2. Make it an incentive for sales.

Make it a game to see which sales person can be the most effective during March madness and give a special award for the employee who really went above and beyond during the month. You could do it specifically for a sales result or any other milestone or behavior you want to reward.

Related: 5 Ways to Reduce Workplace Distraction Without Treating Employees Like Children

3. Use it for team bonding.

Rather than having people sneak away to do their brackets, post them up for everyone to see. At a regular staff meeting make it fun by rewarding unique prizes. Of course, give a prize for the person who won, but also consider a prize for the person who blew out of the running the quickest with their picks, or one who had the biggest underdog success, you name it. By using it as strategically you can actually further the development of staff rapport, good will, and team building.

Related: Your Workday Is Interrupted Every 11 Minutes. How to Manage Those Distractions.

4. Let your team tell you how to leverage it.

Give the challenge to your team. Name the fact that companies typically lose money on productivity during this time frame and see if they can come up with their own ideas on how to make it pay. You may be surprised at how their ideas could outshine your own.

Bob Wright

CEO of Wright, a Fortune 100 consulting organization

Dr. Bob Wright, Ed.D., M.S.W., M.A., is the CEO of Wright, a Fortune 100 consulting organization bringing together the best of neuroscience research, social and emotional intelligence, and developmental psychology to help corporate leaders and entrepreneurs across the country build and grow their businesses. Wright is the author of several leadership books including the winner of the 2013 Nautilus Silver Award,“Transformed! The Science of Spectacular Living. He holds a master’s degrees in communications and clinical social work, and a doctoral degree in education with a focus on human performance and leadership.

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