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Should Your Social Media and Business Systems Policy Prohibit or Limit Fantasy Football in the Workplace?

By Michael Arnold

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?  For most, the answer to that question may be a resounding “yes!”  Last Sunday, people across the country tuned in to watch their favorite teams begin their quest to reach the Super Bowl (although, for some of us, see:  NY Giants’ fans, that quest has already ended).  And then, come Monday morning, millions of employees- from those occupying the boardroom to the mailroom, men and women alike- gathered around the water cooler, stopped by each other’s offices, and e-mailed or IM’d friends and co-workers to discuss their fantasy football teams.

The number of employees participating in fantasy football leagues has grown substantially over the past few years to over 20 million (or nearly 1 in 5 full-time employees according to a report from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association).  Given this trend, employers may be asking whether fantasy football is just another obstacle in the never-ending battle with the internet over maintaining employees’ attention and productivity.

However, the answer may surprise them.  According to the outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, although fantasy football has an impact, it is actually “not killing productivity.” According to Challenger’s 2010 fantasy football survey, while employees are managing their fantasy teams at work, a majority of employers surveyed said that “fantasy football had little or no impact on productivity.”  In fact, according to research commissions by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, many employees believe fantasy football has a positive influence in the workplace, including increasing employee camaraderie and helping employees to make valuable business contacts.

Of course, not all employers agree.  Even though participation in fantasy football leagues is not considered illegal gambling (except in a handful of states), many employers still find it troubling that fantasy football in the workplace impacts productivity at all.  This may explain why a quarter of those employers surveyed by Challenger said that they block access to fantasy sports websites.

Whether or not you tolerate fantasy football in the workplace, you should consider addressing it (and other fantasy sports and similar endeavors) in your social media and computer/business systems usage policy.  More importantly, if you are one of the three-quarters of employers who have yet to implement a social media and computer/business systems policy, you should draft and implement one as soon as possible.

Now, please excuse me while I go set my lineup for this weekend.

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Martha Zackin