fantasy footballThe football may be fantasy, but how real is its effect on productivity in your workplace? A recent report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an employment consulting firm, states that fantasy football, with an estimated 31 million working-age participants, may cost employers close to $14 billion.

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (yes, that is apparently a real thing):

  • The average fantasy football participant spends 3 hours each week managing his or her team; and
  • Some fantasy football participants spend up to 9 hours each week reading or watching something about fantasy sports.

Challenger recognizes that the numbers in its “non-scientific study” are difficult to quantify and are, in large part, “total conjecture.” It adds that while the effect of fantasy sports on productivity is an interesting issue, it is one that probably means nothing to the economy and may have very little, if any, effect on a company’s bottom line.

The report also clarifies that its goal is not to “demonize fantasy football” and also discusses its potential benefits, including increased camaraderie and morale, as:

  • 40% of the individuals surveyed said “fantasy participation was a positive influence in the workplace”; and
  • 20% said their involvement in fantasy sports enabled them to make a valuable business contact.

Are we suggesting that employers begin sacking employees scouring the waiver wire instead of working… or that the potential benefits of fantasy sports should prompt you to sponsor work fantasy leagues? We are suggesting neither.

As with other employment policies that, if taken to the extreme, may affect employee morale, the most prudent approach may be to treat fantasy sports just like any other “social activity” brought into the workplace. Implement policies that focus on moderation – so that you are comfortable that productivity is not being lost and the employee also feels comfortable (and can perhaps occasionally brag about a strategic trade).

Ultimately, if and whether an employer takes a stance on fantasy sports, we recommend that it be consistent with policies on similar issues — e.g., use of the internet, social media, or cell phone use during works hours — and that the policy be explained to employees and enforced consistently.

Something to think about until March Madness or the next World Cup comes around…

As an aside, Kara S. Nickel will be presenting a “New Claim on the Horizon: Family Responsibilities Discrimination” at our Miami office on September 17th.   If you have not already done so, please register here for the in-person session or here for the webinar. We look forward to seeing you there!