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The hidden business benefits of fantasy football

Football! The real kind, with shoulder pads and helmets and touchdowns. Americans love it. We watch and we cheer and cry over our favorite team's ups and downs. And we fantasize over it -- big time.

In the countless fantasy football leagues that have sprung in recent years, players act as team managers who get to pick their own teams out of the ranks of real football players. The statistics from each player's real weekly statistics are used to determine who won each each week.

It's all harmless fun, except in one respect: time. Career services firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas calculates that fantasy football costs $13 billion per year in lost productivity. Perhaps understandably, the sight of employees industriously building spreadsheets to manage their teams causes some managers to freak out. Oh my word! My entire business is going to fall apart because everyone in marketing is playing in a fantasy football league!

My advice? Chill. U.S. Gross Domestic Product for 2014 is estimated to hit $16.8 trillion. A $13 billion loss amounts to 0.0077 percent. Of course, a handful of workers may spend an inordinate amount of time in fantasy football land, but overall the lost productivity for employers is almost certain to be minimal.

In fact, there's no need to get alarmed over any minor time-waster at work -- so long as it doesn't harm anything and affect a company's business. Managers really only need to address the issue if an activity appears to lower productivity and deadline and goals aren't being met.

Meanwhile, we do tons of things to encourage "team building" in the workplace. In fact, many companies hire consultants or have HR teams devoted entirely to making sure departments work well together in teams. Instead of paying a consultant to come in, recognize that sometimes an activity like fantasy football can do the team building for you. And at an estimated 0.0077 percent of your budget? A bargain, to be sure.

Of course, since not everyone is quite so pigskin-crazed, a fantasy league shouldn't be your only team -building event of the year. But it may well be your cheapest and most effective at bring people together.

So when you spot an employee at his desk on Monday updating his team's roster, take a breath and update yours. Game on.

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