Does NFL Put Your Staffers on ‘Fantasy Island?’


I’m what you’d call a fantasy football enthusiast. I never allow myself to join more than two leagues, however (normally one with money, and one just for pride), lest I lose focus. And I’m not one to be bragadocious, but I’ve won my paid league three out of the last four years — but whatever. Surprisingly, women never seem to be as impressed by that on first dates as one might think. But they soon change their tunes when that $100 first place check rolls in at the end of the season and I treat them to a romantic evening at Applebee’s. "Go ahead, get some dessert; you’re rolling with a champion tonight."

Challenger, Gray & Christmas sent a release that I’ll post in its entirety below conveying that while 21 million American workers indulge in the seductive temptress that is fantasy football, employers may not need to view it as a danger to productivity.

With less than two weeks to go before the opening kick-off in the National Football League season, fantasy football participants across the country are undoubtedly spending more time than usual fine-tuning their draft selections and rosters due to a lock-out shortened pre-season.  Unfortunately for the nation’s employers, some of the extra time spent on player research may come during business hours.

However, even with an estimated 21.3 million full-time workers participating in fantasy sports each year, with some spending as much as nine hours per week managing their teams, the impact on overall workplace productivity is negligible, according to the workplace experts at global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“In an information-based economy, productivity is very difficult to measure.  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,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

According to statistics from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the number of people participating in fantasy sports in the United States and Canada has grown 60 percent over the past four years to 32 million.  The Association’s research indicates that 19 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. have played fantasy sports in the past year. That comes to about 21,253,000 workers.

Football is, of course, the most popular fantasy sport, played by roughly 80 percent of all fantasy sports participants.  According to market research, players spend up to nine hours a week planning and plotting their strategies for weekly matchups in 70 million free and paid leagues (the average player belongs to 2.5 leagues).

“It is impossible to determine how much of that weekly prep time is spent during work hours.  It is even more difficult to determine how time spent managing teams during work hours actually impacts productivity or the company’s bottom line,” said Challenger.

“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 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,” he added.

A survey conducted during the 2010 football season by Challenger found that fantasy football had little to no impact on productivity.  Ranking the level of distraction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no noticeable impact, nearly 70 percent said four or lower.  Less than eight percent of respondents said the level of distraction rated a 7 or 8 and none of the respondents felt the phenomenon deserved a 9 or 10.

“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.

“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,” Challenger said. “In the long run, this may lead to increased employee retention.”

In a 2006 Ipsos survey, 40 percent of respondents said fantasy sports participation was a positive influence in the workplace.  Another 40 percent said it increases camaraderie among employees.  One in five said their involvement in fantasy sports enabled them to make a valuable business contact.

Furthermore, a more recent study by researchers at the National University of Singapore found that occasional non-work-related web browsing at the office can refresh tired workers and enhance overall productivity.

Despite evidence of fantasy football’s positive impact on the workplace, less than eight percent those surveyed by Challenger last season said their companies “embrace” fantasy football participation as a morale-boosting activity and none of the employers reported officially organized leagues.

And yes, for the first time, the Chamber is having an internal league for staff. Of course, it’s just for pride (and assuming pride is a zero sum game, I plan to acquire all of it by the end of the season).

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