Some employers dread the start of fantasy football season as a drain on productivity; others think it’s a minor waste of employee time. Obviously, there are two sides to this issue. Should employers come down hard on fantasy football, or just let it ride? Even critics seem to be at odds with this trend.
For example, in 2008 the outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas measured the effects of fantasy football in terms of lost workplace productivity. The firm said that the game would cost employers $9.2 billion, based on the more than 20 million playing. Actually, in 2011 the cost of playing fantasy football at work is probably double that figure (See the graph here).
However, in September 2011, the outplacement firm softened its stance on fantasy football in the workplace.
“It is difficult for companies to take a hard-line stance against fantasy football,” James Challenger said in a blog post. “The Internet technology that helped fuel the rapid growth of fantasy football participation and makes it possible to manage teams from one’s desk also makes it possible for employees to attend to work duties during their personal time.” In other words, Challenger believes that employee time lost in the workplace is often made up for at home, while watching the kids’ soccer game, or at other off-time locations.
Challenger actually analyzed the financial impact of fantasy football on employers during the 2010 season and found little or no effect on productivity. His conclusion was, if employers put a ban on all fantasy football or sports websites, it might backfire and cause reduced morale and loyalty. Challenger stated that the reduced morale and loyalty that results from such a ban could be far worse than the loss of productivity caused by 10 to 20 minutes of team management each day.
In fact, research suggests businesses that encourage playing fantasy football by organizing a company league are likely to see significant benefits in morale as well as productivity. Some note that fantasy football may be good for business. In addition to the positive effect on employee relationships, 20% of players in a 2006 survey said playing fantasy sports helped them make a valuable business contact. (BOB NOTE: This may be more rationalization than reality, though.)
My takeaway on this issue is, if employers do have productivity concerns, senior management should remind employees that their participation in a fantasy football league is a non-work related activity; therefore, it should not interfere with their job performance.
ONE LAST THING…
I’ve been around long enough to know that employees don’t spend 100% of their time doing their work at work, so if they only spend 20 minutes a day on fantasy football, I’m just happy that’s all it is.