Does fantasy football sack productivity?

Some studies suggest participation might boost workplace morale

Posted September 14, 2016

Millions of Americans are expected to participate in one or more fantasy football leagues this season. The problem is that, with more than two-thirds of fantasy sports participants employed full-time, many are likely to research players and manage their teams during work hours.

The distraction over the next 17 weeks of pre-season and regular season could cost employers billions of dollars in lost wages, according to estimates by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“It is difficult to measure the financial impact on employers since there is no way to determine how many people are managing their teams from work or how long they are spending on these activities,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Furthermore, with more and more jobs in the service and information sectors, where mobile technology and high-speed internet access long ago blurred the lines between our personal and work lives, it is difficult to measure productivity in the traditional sense of output per hour,” he added.

While difficult to measure, it is hard to deny fantasy football’s impact on the American landscape. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FTSA) reports that 57.4 million people in the U.S. and Canada will participate in fantasy sports leagues this year. That may be a conservative estimate, according to a study last year by American Express, which revealed that 74.7 million Americans planned to participate in fantasy football in 2015.

For its estimate, Challenger used the lower figure of 57.4 million but made them all Americans (sorry, Canadians). The FTSA estimates that 67 percent of fantasy sports players are employed, meaning that roughly 38.5 million Americans could be managing their fantasy teams during work hours.

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those 38.5 million working fantasy football players earn an average of 25.69 per hour. Which means that each hour of work time spent on fantasy football will cost employers $989.1 million in lost/unproductive wages. Even in a conservative estimate that assumes just one hour of wasted work time each week during the football season, the cumulative loss over 17 weeks totals $16.8 billion.

“On the surface, that seems like a lot of money. But in the overall economy, it is really just a drop in the bucket. Companies will see no fantasy football impact on their third or fourth quarters’ earnings statement. The economy will continue to chug along. If anything, fantasy football is a plus for the economy,” said Challenger.

Stats from the FTSA indicate that fantasy players will spend an average of $556 per year on the hobby in the form of league dues, research costs, website memberships, etc. That alone generates $31.9 billion for the economy.

“Moreover, fantasy football can be a boost to a company’s bottom line in terms of higher morale and lower turnover. These types of distractions can keep our creative juices flowing. For these reasons, employers may not only want to avoid clamping down on fantasy football, but may want to encourage it within the office,” said Challenger, who belongs to multiple fantasy football leagues, including one managed by an employee at his firm.

Forty percent of respondents in a 2006 Ipsos survey 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.


Employment Law TodayJ. J. Keller's Employment Law Today newsletter explains why you need to care, what you need to do and how your business could be affected by HR industry news.

 

J. J. Keller's FREE HRClicks™ email newsletter brings quick-read human resources-related news right to your email inbox.

Sign up to receive HRClicks™.