Office pools are an overlooked tool in the corporate world’s quest to continuously create better work environments.
The occasional pay raise is no longer enough to keep many employees happy–and pay raises aren’t always an option due to budget constraints. Employees nowadays seek greater work-life balance, flexible scheduling, better benefits, and any number of other perks.
With talent at a premium, organizations are getting quite creative with ways to boost morale, incentivize recruitment, and retain top performers. For some companies, coordinated office pools may prove useful in fostering a happy, productive workforce.
What Are Office Pools?
Office pools, competitions in which employees submit predictions on a future outcome, traditionally surround sporting events and require nominal entry fees.
In the US, the most played pools are around the annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, a series better known as March Madness. Other popular pools include weekly NFL winners, international football tournaments, and major golf tournaments.
Expectedly, some businesses are turned off by office pools if they are seen as exclusionary. Not everyone loves sports, and “pay-to-play” activities are always a touchy subject in workplaces.
But this is also a rather narrow scope. Office pools don’t need an entry fee. Pools can be organized around just about any unknown outcome.
Ideas For Non-Sports Pools
Office pools have expanded beyond sports to encompass a variety of events, some even unique to a group of co-workers.
Baby office pools are increasingly popular in workplaces where an employee will soon have a baby. Colleagues enter guesses into a pool on birth details like date and time, height, weight, and gender.
Reality TV shows that eliminate contestants weekly pose a unique opportunity for office pools. In this scenario, co-workers draft teams of contestants on the show. Each contestant can belong on only one team. The employee with the show’s winning contestant on their team wins the office pool.
Office pools are even organized for award shows. Players choose a winner for each award category, such as Best Actress, Best Actor or Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The pool winner is the player who chooses the most award winners correctly.
Why Office Pools are Beneficial for Employees
Many employees love office pools because they liven up the workplace, band colleagues together in the shared interest of an event, and provide a space for healthy competition.
In the case of March Madness, there’s research supporting the upside of office pools. According to Diane Swanson, a professor of business at Kansas State University, any short-term productivity loss caused by office pools is made up for in the long run by increased employee morale.
Swanson believes office pools are a way to harness employee excitement around a strong cultural force.
Do Office Pools Require Skill?
Generally speaking, office pools come in two different types–those where a play strategy may help and those where it won’t.
Players of sports office pools have several options for sharpening their skills and increasing the likelihood of winning a pool.
For example, If you’re participating in an NFL pool with weekly game winner picks, consider the game odds before placing your picks. In fact, you can even refer to regular season win odds by team to determine which teams are expected to win the most games.
On the other hand, the guessed-on outcomes of a baby pool are up to chance–nature doesn’t give away the details of childbirth ahead of time. Sure, players get ask the mother for information about gender, expected birth weight, etc., but that would be cheating!
Know the Rules on Pools in Your Workplace
Finally, you should know any rules your employer imposes on office pools. Some organizations promote pools while others turn a blind eye or ban them outright.
While office pools can lead to improved employee morale and team camaraderie, competing in a pool isn’t worth risking your job. Perhaps there’s an opportunity at your workplace to discuss the benefits of office pools.