What to know about your dental practice and the NCAA basketball tournament bracket

March 17, 2015

After an exciting weekend, my two teams are set. Villanova won the Big East and Notre Dame took the ACC Championship. The bracket has been announced and Nova is a #1 seed in the East. The Irish are a #3 seed in the Midwest. It’s March. It’s time for some Madness. Here we go!

After an exciting weekend, my two teams are set. Villanova won the Big East and Notre Dame took the ACC Championship. The bracket has been announced and Nova is a #1 seed in the East. The Irish are a #3 seed in the Midwest. It’s March. It’s time for some Madness. Here we go!

Have you filled out your bracket?

Even folks who don’t follow basketball any other time of the year will have a bracket or two. The American Gaming Association estimates that nearly 40 million people will complete over 70 million brackets and you can bet that many of those brackets will be part of a tournament office pool.

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Is it legal?

Many people, especially employers, wonder if it’s legal to let employees run an office pool that provides a cash reward. Are millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens breaking the law every March in the form of a $5 office pool bracket? “Technically speaking, yes,” says Michael Meehan, an attorney in the health law practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. “Office pools for compensation are most likely illegal, and there have been cases where authorities have successfully charged pool organizers and participants with running an illegal gambling operation.

“However,” Meehan added with a smile, “I’d venture to say that in the vast majority of cases, the laws at issue are not very strictly enforced during the month of March.”

This seems to be a common sentiment. In his article in the Washington Post this past weekend, sports reporter Will Hobson writes, “while the tournament office pool is outlawed in much of the country, it is a crime roughly equivalent to driving 60 mph in a 55-mph zone.” Anne Fisher of Forbes quoted Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger’s opinion, “Trying to stop March Madness would be like trying to stop a freight train; if anything, employers should embrace it, and look for ways to use it as a tool to boost employee engagement.” 

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What’s a boss to do?

Many studies show that about 50% of the time, the tournament fun has a positive impact on office morale. However, that doesn’t mean you must have an office pool to benefit from all the fun.

Chances are your office will be alive with tournament energy, regardless of whether your practice has an office pool or not. Your employees are likely fired up about the brackets they have going with family and friends. Many of your patients have probably jumped on the “Madness train” as well.

You can choose not to have an office pool, but to tap into the energy by having the team and patients talk it up and share their excitement. You can even throw a tournament office party or open house to celebrate with patients and/or referring doctors and their employees.

Don’t send mixed messages

If you decide to sanction an office pool, it’s a good idea to set some boundaries. Be sure your employees know that no one should be taking a cut for running an office pool, as this can be seen as promoting illegal gambling.

Remind everyone of the guidelines that should be in place in your policy and procedures manual regarding BYOD issues (Bring Your Own Device) and personal use of the practice computers and Internet access.

For instance, if you have a policy that states cell phones should be kept on silent and away from your work area at all times, be sure everyone in your office understands that the office NCAA pool is not a license to keep your cell phone out, stream the games or check the scores. It’s also not a green light for surfing the Internet between patients to watch the tournament live.

Set guidelines for how and when the team can keep up with the games that are played during work hours. For example:

You might set a plan for lunch and mid-afternoon breaks for a team member to update everyone on a white board in the team lounge.

Some practices celebrate the hometown teams and keep the scores on a white board in the reception area and asks patients to help keep them up-to-date.

Other practices choose to have the games playing on the practice televisions.

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Productivity hit or boost?

The corporate world may be bracing for a billion dollar hit in lost productivity, however, due to the interpersonal way dentistry operates, the tournament can be a big boost for your dental practice.

When your practice employees are authentic, enjoying themselves and having fun, it shows! People like to do business with people they like and trust, so give your patients a chance to get to know all of you better on a personal level. Go ahead, tap into the fun, root for your favorite teams, post your team spirit photos to your Facebook page and get caught up in the excitement of this wonderful American tradition.

Ginny is the Founder and President of Dental Practice Development, Inc. which provides practice and team development services to dentistry since 1997 and proudly serves as the Immediate Past-President of The Academy of Dental Management Consultants. If your practice would benefit from HR support or an up-to-date policy and procedures manual, contact Ginny at (610) 873-8404 or through www.GinnyHegarty.com.

Note: Basketball photo © Justin Smith / Wikimedia Commons, CC-By-SA-3.0