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Fantasy Football Season Has Arrived; Should Employers be Worried?

The cost to the nation’s employers in terms of wages paid to unproductive workers could approach $6.5 billion, according to a recent study.

August 31, 2012
Related Topics: Performance Management
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Chicago — Aug. 30

With less than two weeks to go before the opening kick-off in the National Football League season, the estimated 22.3 million employed Americans who participate in fantasy football leagues will undoubtedly spend several hours in the coming days fine-tuning their draft selections and opening-day rosters.

Unfortunately for the nation’s employers, some of the time spent on player research may come during business hours.

According to a very rough, non-scientific, non-verifiable estimate by global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., if 22.3 million American workers spend one hour each week managing their fantasy football team during the average 15-week fantasy football season, the cost to the nation’s employers in terms of wages paid to unproductive workers could approach $6.5 billion.

How did the firm reach its estimate? It assumed that 8.2 percent of the 24.3 million fantasy football participants (as estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association) are unemployed, leaving about 22.3 million employed team managers.

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that weekly earnings for all Americans in the second quarter averaged $773 or $19.33 per hour.

Assuming on the conservative side that fantasy football participants spend one hour each week researching stats and tweaking their rosters, the firm multiplied the $19.33 figure by the 22.3 million employed participants. That results in a dollar amount of roughly $430.9 million each week in unproductive wages paid by employers to fantasy footballers. Multiply that by 15 weeks and the total reaches $6.46 billion.

Football is, of course, the most popular fantasy sport, played by roughly 80 percent of all fantasy sports participants. According to market research, players spend up to nine hours a week planning and plotting their strategies for weekly matchups in 70 million free and paid leagues (the average player belongs to 2.5 leagues).

A survey conducted during the 2010 football season by Challenger found that fantasy football had little to no impact on productivity. Ranking the level of distraction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no noticeable impact, nearly 70 percent said four or lower. Less than eight percent of respondents said the level of distraction rated a 7 or 8 and none of the respondents felt the phenomenon deserved a 9 or 10.

In a 2006 Ipsos survey, 40 percent of respondents 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.

Furthermore, a more recent study by researchers at the National University of Singapore found that occasional non-work-related Web browsing at the office can refresh tired workers and enhance overall productivity.

Despite evidence of fantasy football’s positive impact on the workplace, less than 8 percent those surveyed by Challenger in 2010 said their companies “embrace” fantasy football participation as a morale-boosting activity and none of the employers represented officially organized leagues.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

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