The National Football League season begins tonight – as do the hopes and dreams of more than 20 million fulltime American workers who play fantasy football.
Employment consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., in a 2011 report, said that workers might spend as much as nine hours a week managing their fantasy football teams – which begs the question: Does this affect productivity?
Not necessarily. And interestingly, there might be a slight boost in employee morale.
The impact on overall workplace productivity is negligible, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, based in Chicago. Its survey during the 2010 NFL season found that fantasy football had little to no impact on productivity.
“In an information-based economy, productivity is very difficult to measure,” the firm’s CEO, John A. Challenger, said in 2011. “And the same widespread access to the Internet from our desks, phones and laptops that allows people to manage their fantasy teams from any place at any time, also allows work to be completed outside of traditional 9-to-5 work hours.”
Challenger said: “If you look at a company’s third- and fourth-quarter earnings statements, it is unlikely that you will find a fantasy football effect. The impact is more likely to be seen by department managers and team leaders, who have a better sense of their workers’ day-to-day work flow. Even at [that] level, though, it might not be worth cracking down on fantasy football, unless the quantity or quality of an individual’s work drops off significantly.”
According to the firm: “An across-the-board ban on all fantasy football or sports websites could backfire in the form of reduced morale and loyalty. The result could be far worse than the loss of productivity caused by 10 to 20 minutes of team management each day.”
Challenger said that “Companies that not only allow workers to indulge in fantasy football, but actually encourage it by organizing company leagues are likely to see significant benefits in morale as well as productivity. In the long run, this may lead to increased employee retention.”
Of course, some workplaces not only condone fantasy football leagues, they permit them to be company based.
David Olson, president of Walton Consulting in Allentown, said there is no black or white answer to the impact of fantasy football in the workplace.
“You have to start with an organization’s culture objectives,” he said. “A fantasy football company league can be used to build morale … or to build teamwork.”
Olson said the “rules to how much employees can be involved in this during work hours will vary depending on the company’s objective to improve morale, reinforce a desired corporate culture attribute or simply establish some teamwork behaviors.
“If a fantasy football league is implemented in an organization properly and tied as a reward or form of recognition to team members that would be interested in it, than it definitely can have positive impact.”
Olson, however, cautioned that a league can be exclusionary since not everyone follows the NFL to the degree required to compete in fantasy football.
A better approach, he said, might be to create a more inclusive “weekly picks pool.”
*Editor’s note: In the interests of disclosure, I have played fantasy football for 30 years in one of the longest-running leagues in the nation. And yes, I will be watching tonight when the Ravens and Broncos open the NFL season.