From March Madness to the Super Bowl, over 40 million employees have participated in office pools during paid office hours according to a study done by CareerBuilder.com. There are two schools of thought in dealing with these gambling pools. Many employees use these times as ‘watercooler talk’ and are able to bond of their mutual gambling. It can serve as a team-building experience for them and create more productivity and collaboration among employees (that is, after the gambling event has finished).
Many companies take the route opposite of encouraging and letting the office pools continue. They have policies in place to deal with office gambling on a discretionary basis. The employee relations problem with trying to deter employees from gambling is that is can lead to employees sneaking around and feeling cheated by management. Also, companies may have a policy in place, but if they recognize and are aware that office gambling is going on, they can be held liable by laws prohibiting workplace gambling.
There is no clear decision path on this issue because you want to keep your employees happy, but you also need them to remain productive during the duration of these sports events. Also, you’d like to have a way to control the situation, but knowingly controlling the situation holds you liable according to the law. So, how do you decide what to do?
To take the route that accepts nothing, make sure you do have a policy in place that includes prohibition of gambling that includes monetary exchange and the disciplinary actions for failure to comply with the policy.
If you want to go the way of letting employees take part in the office pool, you still need a policy in place that addresses the definition of unacceptable forms of gambling on company premises.
Whatever it is that you decide, make sure to weigh the factor of employee morale versus productivity and the law itself.