It’s barely a month into the new college and professional football seasons and employers are already concerned about the possibility of lost productivity. While some organizations consider football-related activities and conversations at work detrimental to productivity, others view football season as an opportunity to build a more personal, engaging workplace. Managing fantasy teams and discussing the weekend’s games are all opportunities for organizations to enable their employees to connect and form bonds, enrich relationships and foster trust and deeper engagement.
A study conducted this month by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated that employers lose $6.5 billion per year “due to their employees procrastination and managing their fantasy football rosters.”
But sometimes, viewing intra-office football activities as “losses” is a missed opportunity. Today’s workers are spending more time in the office, and when they’re not at work, they’re taking their jobs home with them. They’re even taking work on vacation, as we discovered in a recent survey on PTO. Smart employers are giving their staffs leeway to pursue some personal interests at the office. Smarter employers are proactively using events such as football season to increase engagement and enhance communications among all of their employees.
There is a fine line between discussing interests and hobbies at the office and maintaining a professional environment. Here are three tips on how managers can create a more engaged work environment, while still remaining work-appropriate during football season:
Host off-site events: These outings allow employees to get to know each other outside of the workplace and connect over a shared interest. Be sure to choose a venue that caters to multiple interests, such as a restaurant where coworkers can chat, eat, and/or watch the game, so employees don’t feel excluded. Fostering strong friendships is a proven indicator of higher retention.
Talk about personal interests/activities: Allow time in meetings for everyone to share something personal, such as what they did over the weekend or an update on their favorite gridiron team’s progress. This is a way for colleagues to feel connected to each other’s lives without being invasive.
Encourage fun: Don’t discourage employees from spending a few minutes watching a YouTube clip or discussing a recent game. Employees shouldn’t feel pressured to work every second of every day. Knowing that they can let loose and discuss personal interests in the office every now and then can reduce burnout and create a less stressful workplace.
Companies need to train themselves to embrace some of the personal interests of their staff. Any effort to outlaw such interests, like the use of company computers for fantasy football, is shortsighted. People will find moments to sneak in football conversations and everyone has a smartphone, so they’ll be using mobile technologies to manage their fantasy teams anyway.