If you don’t participate in a fantasy football league, you may be considered a rare breed these days. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), there are close to 30 million fantasy players in the United States alone, an increase of 54% from just two years ago.
Sounds great, unless of course your employees are using company time to perfect their fantasy starting lineups. Some companies have blocked access to fantasy sports sites (the most common being those offered by Yahoo, ESPN and the NFL), while other companies have fired employees on the spot for engaging in fantasy football during working hours. You may remember the case of 26-year-old Cameron Pettigrew, who, along with four colleagues, was fired from Fidelity Investments without warning for participating in a fantasy football league with coworkers.
This is a case of extremes, however. According to a survey of HR professionals from around the country by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, nearly half (46%) say they do not care if employees engage in fantasy football at work as long as their work performance does not suffer.
“Other surveys show that people are indeed managing their fantasy teams from work. However, what we are hearing from the human resources community is that this is not at all affecting the level of output workers are expected to deliver,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
But it is interesting to note that the FSTA says fantasy football players spend roughly four hours a week adjusting rosters, researching injury reports and proposing trades to their friends. Of that time, approximately 1.2 hours of fantasy team management occurs at the office. And, according to estimates from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, American companies could be losing as much as $1.5 billion in productivity during an average football season because of fantasy leagues.
Even so, some companies see benefits from employees engaging in fantasy sports together, such as boosted morale and improved workplace relationships.
“Managers should only crack down on those whose work is clearly suffering from the added distraction,” said Challenger. “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 a 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.”
What do you think? Should fantasy sports be banned from the office or encouraged among coworkers?
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