March Madness is underway and the NCAA basketball tournament can be a real productivity killer at the office.

The Michigan State Spartans hold the winner's trophy after the 69-55 win over the Michigan Wolverines during the finals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament on March 16, 2014.(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The time employees are expected to spend putting brackets together and sneaking a peak at the games could cost employers $1.9 billion, according to a recent article on But, it doesn't necessarily have to.

Technically, running an office pool is against the law in New Jersey, according to labor attorney Chris Mills, a partner at the firm of Fisher and Phillips.

"It is highly unlikely that law enforcement will go after anyone who is running a typical office pool where people are putting in $5 and $10, but they have gone after people who have run pools where the payout is sizable," Mills said. "So, employers should not sponsor a pool."

Employers should never try to force a policy that cannot be enforced.

"If an employer tells workers that they can't check the scores, that's a fool's errand. If you ban it or block their computers from it, everyone has phones and they can check anyway.  It's probably better to somehow get behind it and make sure normal rules on productivity are enforced," Mills said. "No one wants to be the employer from hell who has no sense of humor. You want people to enjoy coming to work."

Mills recommends employers set up the following guidelines for their managers and supervisors to follow when it comes to office pools:

  • Do not administer a pool;
  • Do not take any cuts;
  • Do not participate in a pool that is run by subordinates

March Madness should be looked at as an opportunity for team building and morale boosting as long as it is consistent with office policy and the culture of an organization, according to Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

"There hasn't been any indication of this being a problem among New Jersey businesses, but this is a good opportunity for businesses to make it a positive moment in the office and for people to join together and find a way to incorporate it to drive productivity," she said.