Are Businesses Losing Yards But Boosting Their Team?

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), there are about 30 million fantasy players in the United States alone and this number is increasing. According to a study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, fantasy football is played by 22.3 million workers and costs employers upwards of $6.5 billion in lost time and productivity during the NFL season. With more and more people getting into fantasy football, are people so much into fantasy teams and games that they contribute less to their work during the football season?
Many HR professionals, however, believe that the game actually benefits the workplace. A recent article by HR Benefits suggests that fantasy football may provide employees an opportunity to communicate with others who might not otherwise interact – i.e., 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. Taking an action to ban fantasy football playing across the company may backfire with reduced morale across the office.
This blending of work and personal time makes is very difficult for an employer to have a bright line rule regarding use of the internet during work time. So what is an employer to do? Many employers strictly prohibit any use of the internet during work time, but with the advent of tablets and smartphones etc. it is virtually impossible to uphold. And, according to Silicon Valley Business Journal, 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.
Why not – instead of a blanket prohibition – focus on performance and productivity? Does it really matter if your employee spent a half-hour making football trades if the result is a happier more productive employee? Instead, employers may want to focus on developing common sense policies that hold employees accountable while allowing for the flexibility of blowing off a little steam through their fantasy league. As long as there is no illegal behavior occurring, it is likely to create a better work environment for everyone. Particularly those who have drafted well!

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