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Fantasy Football at Work is Good for Business

It’s that time of year when many of us go football crazy. And, as the on September 10, so too does the fantasy football season for some 33 million people.


Fantasy-Football-at-Work-is-Good-for-Business.pngAs a reformed corporate HR leader, I know there are conversations happening in board rooms and HR offices everywhere about how to minimize the loss of productivity that is sure to happen as a result of this fantasy football phenomena. But before you go shutting down access to fantasy football websites and punishing those running fantasy leagues for their coworkers, there’s something you should know.



Earlier this year, we surveyed nearly 1,500 employees from across the U.S. to get an idea of who and how employees are participating in fantasy football and what impact it’s having on employee engagement and productivity. The results might surprise you.


Of the employees surveyed, 16.59 percent reported participating in a fantasy football league last season. Of these, 37 percent were women. When comparing the overall employee engagement (i.e. the degree to which employees voluntarily contribute above and beyond expectations and are advocates for their organization) of the fantasy footballers with the others, there was no meaningful difference. Maybe it’s not as much of a risk as we thought.


To the contrary, those employees participating in a fantasy football league with a coworker were significantly more engaged at work than those who did not play fantasy football at all. When we dug a little deeper, we found that this group reported much higher levels of teamwork and feeling valued at work.




What’s going on here?


The people we work with are an increasingly important driver of our satisfaction and engagement with work. Employees at Best Places to Work often describe their coworkers as “family.” And this doesn’t happen by accident. Our study of these best workplaces reveals that they intentionally foster activities and experiences that allow for employees to get to know one another beyond simply what they do at work.


Fantasy football leagues create a common experience for employees to talk about. Bob in accounting and Jill in sales may not have a lot in common personally. But by participating in the same fantasy league, they now have something to talk about, a shared experience to bond around. The door to a new friendship may be opened.


We aren’t naïve though. Too much of a good thing can bite us. So before you decide to open the floodgates and start a bunch of company-sponsored fantasy football leagues, consider these suggestions:

  • No entry fees. Ideally, leagues at work should be for fun and not require an entry fee. This decreases the barriers to entry into the league and makes it more likely that a broader group will participate (even those new to football). The more who participate, the bigger the potential benefit.
  • Create a traveling trophy for the winner. This preserves an element of competition to keep people interested. The traveling trophy also becomes something for people to talk about throughout the year. Remember, the goal is to stimulate relationship building and connection.
  • Set some ground rules. It’s important to clearly communicate that the existence of your fantasy league does not give people permission to spend all day online reading football blogs. Reminding people what is appropriate and what is not up front makes policing any issues during the season easier.
  • Remember, this isn’t about fantasy football. This is about creating and supporting opportunities for employees to get better connected with one another. It’s important to encourage other activities that bring employees together as well (did somebody say happy hour?). For 50 more creative, purpose-driven ideas on teambuilding, check out our ebook, 50 Team Building Ideas to Engage Employees.

Try it for a year. If the fantasy league creates more divisiveness, drama, or distraction than it’s worth, move on to something else that is more meaningful to your employees (and explain why).


People want to be connected to one another. When we allow our employees to get better connected, to become friends, or even to feel like family, the organization wins. Work becomes more fun. And people stick around because it’s hard to leave a place where you get paid to work side by side with your friends. Everyone wins.


Good luck this fantasy football season. Have some fun out there.


Free ebook! 50 Team Building Ideas to Engage Employees


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