The news release came to HRB headquarters via e-mail with this headline in bold print: Employees are tracking football when they should be working. A company that makes software that tracks everything done on an employee’s computer wanted to “throw the flag on fantasy football.”
“Employers can see EVERYTHING an employee does at the PC and on the Internet while on company time at work,” the release went on to say.
Backing up the need for its product, the e-mail spouted facts about fantasy football in the workplace:
- More than 14 million people are playing fantasy football, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA).
- The FSTA estimates the average fantasy football player spends about 90 minutes per week researching and managing teams at the office.
- Nearly 37 million people spend an average of 50 minutes a week at work managing their fantasy teams, according to outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas (CG&C).
The company also provides its own statistics: More than 50,000 companies have purchased SpectorSoft solutions to crack down on Internet abuse, according to the firm.
And the ROI is high: One company estimates it’ll save $200,000 in the first year of using the software.
Cost cutter or morale massacre?
Of course, fantasy football isn’t the only non-work activity employees use their company computers for. E-bay and online card games also come to mind.
And political junkies probably can’t stay away from polling Web sites as the election draws near.
On top of that, the Internet isn’t the only way employees waste time at work. That list would be huge, including long lunches, smoke breaks and just chatting with your co-workers about non-work topics.
Forbes notes in a recent article on this topic, [companies] “might as well lock up the restrooms and insist on bagged lunches as well” because of time employees waste taking breaks or going out to eat at lunch.
Would strict rules regarding Internet use hurt morale?
“It truly depends on the company,” Christina Stovall, an HR supervisor in Fort Worth, TX, told McClatchy Newspapers. “We don’t necessarily police it, but we don’t want people using their whole day on non-business activities.”
Even CG&C Chief Executive John Challenger cautions against crackdowns on things like fantasy football. “The boundary line between work and personal life is very blurry today. Many companies and managers still operate on the basis of time — you’re in the office and you’re working, or you’re out of the office and it’s your personal life. That concept of clocking in and clocking out is outdated.”
Challenger says managers need to realize fantasy football can build camaraderie and boost morale. He suggests managers use work output not time “wasted” on the Internet as a measure of employees’ productivity.
So, what do you think? Has your company installed Internet monitoring software? Would such a crackdown be worth it as a boost to the bottom line or would it hurt morale? Let us know in the Comments Box below.