Human Resources News & Insights

Why you should be glad your employees love fantasy football

It’s that time of year again. And while it’s hard to think of the office fantasy football league as a benefit – it could be a big one. Now before you shake your head in disagreement, hear us out.  

There’s no denying several studies have been conducted that pooh-pooh the impact fantasy football has on the workplace. The one that’s cited most often was conducted by the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The firm estimated that 22.3 million employed people spend at least an hour a week managing or tweaking their rosters. And at an average hourly rate of $19.33 (a stat from the Bureau of Labor Statistics), Challenger predicts fantasy football costs businesses $430.9 million per week in lost productivity — or $6.5 billion across the typical 15-week fantasy season.

That sounds pretty bad. And that $6.5 billion figure is where much of employers’ ire for the fall/winter hobby comes from.

But look a little deeper at the study and you’ll see that Challenger doesn’t seem to put that much stock into it. In fact, the firm’s blog called it a “very rough, non-scientific, non-verifiable estimate.” Ouch!

CEO John Challenger even said that in all likelihood, “Employers will not see any impact on their bottom line and, for the most part, business will proceed as usual.”

Benefits of the game

The reality is, companies will have to try to figure out for themselves how much of an effect fantasy football has on employee productivity. We’re probably quite a ways away from being able to accurately predict its true impact on a national scale.

And while you’re trying to figure out if it’s something you should allow on company grounds, consider this: There are ways it can benefit an organization.

These include:

  • Improved employee morale. Let’s face it, people love the game. And if you haven’t outlawed other beloved social activities also widely believed to be time-wasters — like Facebook, Twitter, etc. — then it’s probably worth it to let fantasy football slide, even if just to avoid the backlash you’d get from employees for banning it. Plus, when workers feel their employers trust them to do the right thing, they tend to do it.
  • Increased interdepartmental communication. Fantasy football gives employees a reason to talk to other staffers they may not ordinarily talk to. For example, a sales rep may be able to talk to the CEO because their teams are playing each other, or an accountant may approach the head of Marketing with a trade offer. It’s a catalyst for a level of communication some employees wouldn’t ordinarily have with each other.
  • Better customer relations. It’s not out of the ordinary to see salespeople contact customers with whom they’ve had a long and prosperous business relationship, and invite them to join his or her fantasy league. Most die-hard fantasy players are in multiple leagues and are always looking for new entrants — and invites often aren’t limited to close family and friends.

Not buying any of it? Consider this: Even if you outlaw the game, chances are employees will find a way to play it behind management’s back — and lose productive man hours (if you believe that’s the only thing that can come from playing).

As a result, you may want to ask yourself this: Is there more upside in letting them play and converse freely about it — and potentially unlock the benefits above — than forcing them to hide their activities and gain nothing from it?

Info: A previous version of this article appeared on our sister website HR Benefits Alert.

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