All that time spent at work scouting the waiver wire, catching up on injury updates and making trades in an attempt to win your fantasy football league (not to mention choosing a team name) adds up to a big loss for employers in one stat: productivity. During the usual 15-week fantasy football season, employers are expected to lose more than $13 billion in lost productivity, according to an analysis by Chicago-based outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
In coming up with the estimate, the company said it “fully acknowledges the absurdity of trying to gauge the level of lost work output resulting from fantasy football.”
“We are not trying to demonize fantasy football. It is important to understand that there are more distractions than ever in today’s workplace. If it’s not fantasy football, it’s the latest Hollywood gossip, shopping on Amazon, or checking Facebook,” John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement sent to International Business Times. The study first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
“It used to be that only those with computers at their desk were at risk of internet-related distractions. Now, access to the Internet through our smartphones and tablets, means that anyone can go online from anywhere. Yet, despite the growing number of distractions, the economy has not fallen to pieces. Productivity continues to improve, along with GDP and job creation,” he said. “That being said, one cannot entirely dismiss widespread phenomenon such as fantasy football or deny that it has some impact on workplace productivity. It may be immeasurable in terms of real dollars and cents, but undoubtedly there are managers, supervisors and IT professionals who will attest to a slowdown in output from certain workers around this time of year.”
How did the firm arrive at that $14 billion figure in lost productivity? Using the latest statistics from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, Challenger, Gray & Christmas determined there are about 31 million working-age Americans playing fantasy sports. With July’s employment rate at 59 percent and employees earning $24.95 an hour on average, according to July data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outplacement consultancy company estimated that 18.3 million nonfarm employees “may be distracted” by fantasy sports in their workplaces.
The two hours these employees spend on fantasy football costs employers $447.4 million, or $895 million a day. Stretching those figures out to the entire fantasy football season means employers will lose $13.4 billion in lost productivity.
“If there is a measurable dip in GDP or productivity in the third and fourth quarter, it definitely will not be due to fantasy football,” Challenger said. “The $13.4 billion-figure, in fact, represents less than one percent of the $1.5 trillion in wages that will be paid out to workers on private-sector payrolls during that same 15-week period.”
He said the point of the non-scientific study is “simply to acknowledge that fantasy football is a massively popular phenomenon that cannot be ignored.”
“No one can deny that it is a common source of workplace chatter around water coolers and lunch tables throughout the season,” Challenger added. “While it is arguable as to whether fantasy sports participation impacts the bottom line, IT departments are very likely to see a dip in the company internet quality as bandwidth is devoted to researching players, making trades and scanning the waiver wire.”
Despite the lost productivity, Challenger said companies should embrace fantasy football for its team-building qualities.
“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. The end result could be far worse than any loss of productivity caused by an hour or two of team management each week,” he said. “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.”