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The 50-Yard Line between Work & Play – Tackling Fantasy Football at the Office

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By Bill Hanna

RISMEDIA, Sept. 11, 2008-(MCT)-For fantasy football enthusiasts, it’s time to decide whether they’re better off with Tony Romo, Brett Favre or perhaps LaDainian Tomlinson.

And many participants may be surreptitiously filling out their rosters while sitting in their cubicles at work.

With the flood of fantasy football games on Facebook, Yahoo, ESPN and other websites, the temptation is stronger than ever to keep track of one’s team while at work.

And some players are concerned about getting caught.

“I don’t talk to my employer about this kinda stuff,” wrote one Arlington, Texas, resident on Facebook who asked not to be identified because he doesn’t want his boss to find out.

For employers, having employees who play fantasy football at work can make for difficult decisions. Should certain websites be banned, or should employers look the other way? Will allowing it hurt productivity? Would strict rules hurt morale?

“It truly does depend on the company,” said Christina Stovall, human-resources supervisor for Odyssey One Source and president of the Fort Worth Human Resource Management Association.

At her company, Stovall said, employees have Internet access but shouldn’t abuse the privilege.

“We don’t necessarily police it, but we don’t want people using their whole day on non-business activities,” Stovall said. “That’s not a good use of company time.”

A report released in August by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based global outplacement company, said fantasy football could cost companies $10.5 billion over the 17-week NFL regular season. The estimates were based on figures from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and the Fantasy Sports Association.

“It’s a place where productivity could be siphoned away,” Chief Executive John Challenger said. “We live in an environment where there’s a huge productivity-sucking device or black hole sitting on everybody’s desktop.”

But he cautioned employers against cracking down on fantasy football.

“The boundary line between work and personal life is very blurry today,” Challenger said. “Many companies and managers still operate on the basis of time-you’re in the office and you’re working, or you’re out of the office and it’s your personal life. That concept of clocking in and clocking out is outdated.”

With workers reachable 24 hours a day with cell phones and BlackBerrys, Challenger said managers need to realize that fantasy football can build camaraderie and boost morale-as long as it doesn’t bother coworkers or get in the way of productivity.

“When you’re asked to do work from home, is it even fair for me to block the fantasy football website or, say, a poker site or even shopping on eBay?”

Challenger said. “What’s the right line to draw about the productivity of employees? I think we’re seeing many managers start to think about using a measurement of productivity based on your work output rather than one based on time.”

By the Numbers:

- 17 million: Fantasy football participants
- $615 million: Cost to employers nationwide each week during the NFL season for lost productivity
- $500: Average amount participants spend yearly on fantasy sports
- 57%: Participants who talk to co-workers during breaks about fantasy sports
- 40%: Participants who say fantasy sports increase camaraderie among employees

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, with information provided by Fantasy Sports Trade Association and West Virginia Wesleyan College

© 2008, Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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