NFL season has arrived, with the Green Bay Packers going against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. For football fans, the season’s start is a time of great joy and excitement. For business owners and managers? Maybe not so much.
Football season inevitably means football-loving employees will be in constant distraction mode—whether checking game scores and pregame analysis on their work computers, trading fantasy football players or making tailgating plans for the weekend. How can you turn football season into a win-win for the office rather than a time suck and productivity loss?
Embrace the season. If you can’t beat them, join them. Rather than being a killjoy by banishing all football activity from the office, find fun ways to incorporate it into your team building. Maybe you host a fantasy football competition or let employees wear their favorite team’s jersey before big games. In Tampa Bay, Florida, fantasy football in the workplace is heating up: The Tampa Bay Business Journal is hosting a competition to find the best office fantasy football trophy. (Be careful to follow your state’s gambling rules, as social gambling in the office is allowed in some states but not others.)
One Oklahoma City law firm, Crowe & Dunleavy, hosted a fantasy football draft office party after work recently and brought in food for the occasion.
Halley Bock, CEO of leadership development and training company Fierce Inc., says companies that allow employees to enjoy their favorite pastimes at the office—rather than banning or restricting them—will ultimately win the benefits of higher employee engagement, loyalty and retention. She writes on BrazenCareerist.com:
If companies really want to retain their best workers, they should train themselves to embrace some of the personal interests of their staff. Any effort to outlaw such interests, like the use of company computers for fantasy football, is shortsighted. People will always find moments to sneak in football conversations or manage their fantasy football teams on their smartphones, so organizations should instead embrace football season and reap the benefits of increased employee engagement.
Set boundaries—but not too many. Realistically, however, football season does sack employee productivity. A study by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that the 17-week NFL season costs employers an estimated $14 billion in lost productivity. So the challenge is letting employees enjoy some football fun in the office, but preventing it from sapping too much time. Some employers block access to football-related websites during football season, but many leadership experts say that goes too far: It can hurt employee morale when employers control their workers’ Internet usage (and most people can use their personal smartphones to browse the Internet anyway). A friendly reminder to employees at the beginning of football season about the need to focus on work may be enough—and provide a good chance to kick off that office fantasy football season.
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