Fantasy Football: Time-waster or Team-Builder?

How is your fantasy football team doing? If you don't play fantasy football yourself, chances are you've heard colleagues who do talking about their lineups and trades at the office. The outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimates (with tongue somewhat in cheek) that all the fantasy football talk at work costs employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity.

Does that mean that workplaces should banish fantasy football? Let's call a timeout and talk about the issue a little more.

Team Players

Fantasy football (if managed well) can actually benefit a workplace. It brings a dose of fun and positive energy, and it strengthens relationships by helping co-workers get to know each better.

Allowing some football talk at the office also sends a message that leaders are flexible and trust employees to deliver quality results without micromanaging how and when they work.

All of that is important because it contributes to employee engagement. Deloitte Human Capital Research concluded that workplaces where employees are engaged and thriving share qualities including autonomy and a flexible, fun environment. And when your employees are engaged, your business is more successful.

By the way, what I'm saying here about fantasy football also applies to any other nonwork activity that helps your team bond, whether that's rehashing awards show fashions together or trading info on Black Friday sales.

Playing Fair

Of course, there are a few things to be mindful of if your team spends time on fantasy football or similar activities at the office. Keep an eye on whether deadlines or work quality suffer. If productivity problems do come up, look at whether they're an issue for the whole team or just certain individuals. Finally, make sure that the people who aren't part of the activity don't feel overtly excluded.

If you'd like to explore this topic more, check out my radio interviews on fantasy football at the office on KURV (McAllen, Texas) and WHBC (Canton, Ohio). And you can find more tips on strengthening your team in my new Leadership EDGE SeriesSM booklet, “Building a Stronger Team.” Sometimes the little touches, like giving employees enough flexibility to enjoy fantasy football or other fun activities at the office, can lead to big payoffs in engagement.