With the Olympics just finished, the Oscars dawning and March Madness drawing near, offices across Canada are abuzz with pools, but are they a team-building force for good or a distraction that risks turning the office into The Office?
Dr. Ian Bradley, a workplace psychologist in Montreal, says there are risks and rewards to office pools. “Some people get really into it and one wonders how much work time is devoted to the pool,” he says. “The benefits are in terms of camaraderie and excitement.”
He considers pools an organic form of official team-building exercises, but without the price tag of a seminar or a weekend bonding in the woods.
Pools can connect staff at different levels and in different departments, opening new lines of communication.
“We need as much fun in the workplace as possible, within bounds. The more things that are humorous and bring people together and allow them to forget about the drudgery and stresses of the work, I think all the better,” Bradley says.
Because of those advantages, he urges bosses to accept pools even if staff go overboard for the Oscars, so long as they don’t go all Michael Scott, from The Office, on their colleagues.
Maricel Dicion organizes the Oscar office pool at the Toronto branch of the global communications firm Cohn & Wolfe. “Everyone participates. We’re a full-service PR agency and we all have lots of things to do, but things like this really help build team morale,” she says. “It’s just something fun to think about and something fun to do.”
The email-organized pool doesn’t involve money and doesn’t distract people from their work, she says, but in fact gives them a useful break in the day. “Plus, if you win you get bragging rights until the next Oscar pool,” she notes.
As Bradley predicted, the pools cut across the normal office barriers of rank and department, encouraging staff to get to know their coworkers.
“It gives you an excuse to congratulate the person who won,” Dicion said.