Fantasy football may cost employers more than $13 billion in lost productivity as millions of Americans who spend the season helming imaginary football teams spend work hours reviewing player statistics and managing their pretend rosters.
Chicago-based outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which calculated the estimate, emphasized that it "fully acknowledges the absurdity" of trying to put a firm dollar amount on lost work output resulting from the virtual competition.
"We are not trying to demonize fantasy football," CEO John A. Challenger said in a statement. "It is important to understand that there are more distractions than ever in today's workplace. If it's not fantasy football, it's the latest Hollywood gossip, shopping on Amazon, or checking Facebook."
But with fantasy football dominating water cooler conversations and possibly even slowing down a company's Internet speed as bandwidth goes to researching players, it's a "massively popular phenomenon that cannot be ignored," he said.
The firm came to its figure using average hourly earnings of workers on private non-farm payrolls ($24.45) and the estimated number of employed fantasy sports participants (18.3 million, assuming a 59 percent employment rate among the 31 million working-age Americans who participate in fantasy sports). Assuming, conservatively, that each employed participant spends two hours a week on fantasy sports while on the job, it works out to $13.4 billion over the course of the 15-week fantasy football schedule.
With the economy still chugging along, and no chance that any measurable dip in GDP in the third or fourth quarter would be the fault of fantasy football ($13.4 billion is less than 1 percent of the $1.5 trillion in wages paid out during the same period), Challenger said companies shouldn't crack down on the practice but instead recruit employees into company-wide leagues to build camaraderie and morale.