Morale may get a boost during March brackets, but try to minimize distractions

It’s here! March Madness is upon us, once again, and you may have noticed the bustle around your office involving which teams made the tournament, selecting brackets and what time the games start. While you may dread this time of year as a manager, this annual sporting event may not be as detrimental to office productivity as was once thought.

An OfficeTeam survey of 1,000 managers and 400 workers employed in office environments in 2018 found that 11 percent of managers said they find March Madness activities to be a welcome diversion. In fact, those managers believe the activity can increase teamwork and boost morale.

Fifty-seven percent of the managers admitted that while they do not encourage March Madness activities in the workplace, they find said activities to be okay in moderation. The survey also found that only 1-in-5 employees are distracted at work by the inherent excitement that forms from watching major sports competitions.

How much money do companies lose during March Madness?

Despite the enhanced camaraderie that can occur during March Madness, business owners must still pay attention to the bottom line. It is estimated that, collectively, employers could lose $13.3 billion in revenue during the opening week of March Madness according to a report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Each hour spent on building brackets or watching games will cost employers $2.1 billion overall, the report adds.

And there can be legal and human resources related issues surrounding the tournament activities. Consider the following tips to help you capitalize on team-building and minimize distractions:

  • Establish an office pool with no entry fee; this sends a clear message that the company does not encourage employee gambling but still allows them to participate in the fun.
  • Place a television or computer with Internet access in the lunch room to allow workers to catch up on scores during break times rather than at their desks.
  • Make sure your Internet-use policy is up-to-date; if your policy states that Internet access is for work-related purposes only, it may not hurt to remind employees of the policy before the tournament begins.
  • Offer a casual dress day in the office where employees are encouraged to wear T-shirts and sweatshirts to show the support of their favorite team.

Who coined the phrase March Madness?

Fun fact: The “March Madness” name is attributed to former high school coach and athletic administrator Henry V. Porter, who first used the term in a 1939 essay titled “March Madness” and then through a poem distributed to high school athletic associations and widely republished in 1960.

So, allow your employees some time during the March Madness tournament but keep an eye on your bottom line. It can be a win-win for everyone.

Do you need help developing a policy or are you looking for someone to handle your Human Resources questions and needs? We can help with everything from developing policies and handbooks, to handling safety training, payroll and HR reporting. Contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us electronically.

Photo credit: Photo by Dan Carlson on Unsplash

Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Workplace breast-pumping is a protected activity

In February 2019, a jury awarded a former employee of a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Delaware more than $1.5 million in damages for gender-based discrimination and harassment after the company demoted her for pumping breast milk while at work. According to the lawsuit, when the employee was hired as an assistant manager she was told that it would not affect her need to pump her breast milk every two hours, as her doctor recommended. However, immediately after starting the position, she was forced to work 10-hour training sessions with just one break during the shift. Additionally, the space she was allotted for breast pumping was the manager’s office which had windows and a surveillance camera that she was told could not be turned off.

When the employee concluded her training, she was transferred to a different location where she dealt with complaints from co-workers who asserted that she was allowed too many “breaks” to pump. She was ultimately demoted.

The jury looked at several laws in making their decision, but one was of important note in this case. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as the “Affordable Care Act,” or ACA) was enacted in 2010, it effectively amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require all employers covered by the FLSA to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has the need to express the milk.”

Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” This law covers nonexempt (hourly) employees. The time spent pumping breast milk need not be compensated unless the employer provides compensated breaks to the employee and if the employee uses that break time to express milk.

Although the provision covers all employers covered by the FLSA, there is a U.S. Department of Labor exemption for employers with fewer than 50 employees if the employer can demonstrate that compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship.

It is important to know that some states have more expansive laws covering this topic. If you have questions regarding how this affects your business, please contact the specialists at BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911.

Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Fire prevention checklist offers tips to keep your workplace safe

Safety in the workplace is something to be concerned about. In today’s fast-paced world of work, safety items can be unintentionally overlooked.

With that in mind, we thought we’d provide a quick read safety checklist of common sense “to do’s” to help you assess your place of business when it comes to basic fire prevention standards. Do a regular walkaround of your workplace to see if any of these need attention throughout the year:

  1. Provide an adequate number of fire extinguishers and service them at least once annually. Visit the OSHA website at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/portable_placement.html for tips about placing and using portable extinguishers.
  2. Train employees how to use fire extinguishers.
  3. Train employees how to respond should a fire occur.
  4. Ensure that building “exit” signs are readily visible and well lit.
  5. Ensure that there are enough exits to facilitate a prompt escape, if needed.
  6. Post your emergency evacuation plan and have periodic fire drills that put your plan in practice.
  7. Keep aisles, stairwells and exits clear – DO NOT block these areas with furniture or other obstacles.
  8. Store materials no closer to the ceiling than 36 inches (in a non-sprinklered room) or 18 inches (in a sprinklered room).
  9. Do not overload electrical outlets. Check your outlets regularly.
  10. Provide safety ashtrays in areas where smoking is allowed.
  11. Store hazardous chemicals properly and locate them away from sources such as gas pilot lights.
  12. Keep work areas free of refuse.
  13. Don’t use compressed air to blow dust off equipment or other work surfaces. Dust levels in the air can quickly reach dangerous levels that can pose a health hazard to your workers and, if combustible, may even explode when contacting lights or other common electrical sources.
  14. Do not use flexible cords that are frayed or have damaged plugs. Take them out of service by placing a tag on them that visibly says, “Damaged, Do Not Use” and report them for replacement. Replace and discard as soon as possible.
  15. Be aware that unusually warm or hot outlets may be a sign of unsafe wiring. Unplug any cords to the outlet, mark the outlet as “Do Not Use”, and report the condition immediately to someone who can safely follow up.

We can help you determine what safety changes are needed in your workplace. In addition to the above checklist review, BCN Services has a staff of safety consultants who will come to your place of business to offer a friendly set of eyes and do a more thorough safety walk-through at no charge. Our consultants have decades of experience across many industries.

Call the BCN Services Risk Management Department at 1.800.891-9911, ext. 108 and arrange a walk-through today. Let’s focus on safety in the workplace in 2019.

Patrick Boeheim, Safety and Risk Manager