Last Updated Sep 3, 2008 1:01 PM EDT
Are you ready for some football? Yep, it's that time of year again, as the NFL season kicks off tomorrow with all its customary hoo-hah. It's also the time of year that the dire stats start pouring in about how bad fantasy football, the sport's rabid cousin, is for office productivity. Consider the horrifying prediction from Challenger, Gray & Christmas that employers will lose $9.2 billion (billion!!) in work time this fantasy football season, as office workers waste about 1.19 hours per weeks managing their virtual teams.
Oh, come on.
As a former sportswriter and longtime football fan, I've participated in my share of fantasy football shenanigans. And while I acknowledge that yes, I did use some office time to research backup quarterbacks and figure out starting lineups, I don't for a second believe it hurt my productivity. If anything, it was refreshing to take a break from my daily grind and then get back to work with a clearer perspective. I'd even argue, as did Tom Van Riper at Forbes, that the "costs" of online football are the true fantasy. As he sarcastically puts it:
Clearly no employees ever engaged in any downtime on the job prior to the days of the Internet andfantasy sports. How managers must long for the days when no workers ate lunch, used the restroom, chatted around the water cooler or ran an errand during a typical eight-hour day.
The problem with a study like this is that they assume that people would spend their time doing something productive if there wasn't fantasy football. It's been my experience that people inclined to #### off are going to #### off.
Van Riper also points out that the salary demographics researched in the yearly studies (usually $60,000 to $100,000) include primarily salaried workers, who aren't punching a clock and are likely to make up for that wasted football time by staying late to get their work done.
And don't forget the benefits. Fantasy football fans say that participating is good for office morale and can promote team-building by giving people a common interest. This argument has even spawned a book, "Fantasy Kick", which claims you can get promoted by using "the amazing and powerful networking opportunities of fantasy football."
So I'm taking this study with a whopping grain of salt. At least until they come out with companion studies about what a productivity killer coffee breaks and bathroom sojourns can be.