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Is Fantasy Football Throwing Office Productivity for a Loss?

Fantasy football participants may be throwing employers for as much as a $8.2 billion loss in lost productivity.

| BY Donald Liebenson

The NFL season is underway and with it, its parallel universe, fantasy football. Business owners concerned about worker productivity during the typical 15-week season can be assured that their employees are keeping their minds on their jobs and their noses to the grindstone, and not going online or making surreptitious phone calls to research players, plot strategy, make trades or adjust their rosters. Now that is a fantasy.

Fantasy football participants may be throwing employers for as much as a $8.2 billion loss in productivity, according to a recent study by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

This staggering number is “total conjecture,” the report concedes. It is based first on the average hourly earnings for non-farm, private-sector employees, $23.98. Multiply that by the roughly 23 million Americans who the report estimates participate in fantasy football (other estimates put the number at 33.5 million). That adds up to $551,540,000. Multiply that figure across the length of the season. “It starts to add up,” noted CEO John A. Challenger in a statement.

Granted, it cannot be verified just how many of these fantasy football participants are actually employed, or how much above or below the national average they earn. Also unknown is how much time they actually spend each week managing their team at the office, or if they do at all.

The point then is this: Fantasy football is a definite thing. The industry brings in a reported $1.2 billion in revenue each year, employs more than 4,000 people and had a double-digit percentage of growth annually between 2007 and 2012.

Football is by far the most popular of the fantasy sports. Eighty-three percent of fantasy sports players field a fantasy football team, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Baseball comes in a distant second at 43 percent.

Fantasy football has gotten a boost in recent years with the increase in broadband access and the smartphone boom. A new Pew Research Center study finds that nearly two-thirds of American cellphone users are using their phones to go online. According to the FSTA, almost half of fantasy sports players (44 percent) consult four-five sports news websites to obtain data.

As with “March Madness,” the NCAA Division 1 basketball champion tournament, employers are advised to “embrace the phenomenon” rather than crackdown on employees. While it is debatable whether fantasy football participation impacts the bottom line, IT departments are likely to see dips in company Internet quality as bandwith is devoted to managing teams.

“An across-the-board ban on all fantasy football or sports websites is likely to backfire and cause a drop in morale, loyalty and, ironically, productivity,” Challenger said.” The end result could be far worse than any loss of productivity caused by 10 to 20 minutes of team management each day. Companies that not only allow workers to enjoy fantasy football, but actually encourage it by organizing a company leagues are likely to see significant benefits in morale, which, in turn leads to an overall boost in productivity as well as employee retention.”

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.