March Madness is upon us and what better way to to celebrate the energy and spirit of the basketball tournament than to turn it into a team building event?

In 2009, a Microsoft/MSN survey found that 45 percent of Americans planned to take part in at least one college basketball pool (Heathfield). And with ways to keep track of brackets on mobile devices, it’s even easier to get lost in the basketball fever.  Traditionally, the event can been seen as a distraction by employers but you can redirect all that passion to help strengthen your team and improve productivity. Here’s how:

Start a bracket of your own

Let your employees get in on the excitement by filling out a bracket to predict the tournament champions. The challenge should be voluntary and free to all employees to avoid any legal issues. Encourage participation by offering a grand prize such as gift cards to neighboring stores or some sweet March Madness swag.

Cultivate team spirit

Give employees the chance to dress in team colors or wear accessories that show off their team spirit. A visual display of pride will transfer the excitement to your workplace and customers will enjoy being helped by others who are just as pumped about the games as they are.

Create some friendly rivalry

Tap into the competitive nature of the tournament by creating teams that battle for your company goals. Split your employees into groups that represent their favorite college basketball teams and award points for things like sales, time and attendance or “slam-dunk” customer service. The team with the most points when the competition ends in early April should be recognized with a special award.

March doesn’t have to mean madness for productivity. Tap in to the excitement and pull your team together to focus on winning your business goals. It’s going to be a crazy month for college basketball but it will also be the perfect opportunity to build your team’s spirit so you can coach your employees to success all year long.