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Fantasy football and work

Posted on 10.09.2013

With the arrival of fall and football has come the favorite American obsession: fantasy football leagues. In spirit of this arrival I began a search of UIndy’s various departments in an attempt to find a league that was composed of strictly University of Indianapolis faculty and staff on which I could report.
To my surprise, I found none. Perhaps faculty were nervous of their bosses learning that hidden in the tabs of their internet browsers were fantasy football sites. Or perhaps no faculty member has dreamt of an all Greyhound fantasy league. Either way, it is important to know that fantasy football in the workplace is not as negative as some may think. In fact, it can have many benefits.
Since its creation in a New York hotel room in 1962, people have skewed fantasy football as a hobby that will prevent workplace productivity. Many bosses see the leagues as distractions for their employees. This opinion was so prevalent that it sparked a study by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. The study cited that fantasy football may cost employers more than $6.5 billion. However, the firm did say that the numbers were non-scientific, merely a rough estimate.
This study, and the articles that responded to it, have been scrutinized. For example, a human resources website called HR Benefits Alert, which is a part of  PBP Media Network, posted an article stating that fantasy football can be embraced in a workplace. The article cited increased interdepartmental communication, improved employee morale and better customer relations as contributions from fantasy league participation.
Customer relations is probably the most significant positive benefit mentioned by the HR Benefits Alert article. Aside from potential students, one of the publics that the university would like to reach most is alumni. Improving alumni relations through fantasy leagues could be huge. This is just another vehicle—a sports vehicle—that could be used to keep alumni in touch with other alumni and with the university.
Conversation within the department also could be improved by integrating competition. Friendly trash-talk and conversations about trades and the number of points Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick didn’t produce last week may distract from the stressful week ahead.
Eliminating distraction from a workplace environment is nearly impossible. Employers have to hope that employees are responsible enough to get their work done while managing other tasks. So if distraction is inevitable and productivity is still probable, why not encourage distraction that decreases isolation within the department?
In the argument for improved interdepartmental communication, a league of individuals from various departments competing against one another would help  break down the walls of communication between departments. When the head of the sociology department offers an adjunct in the music department a possibly injured running back and two quality wide receivers for the best two backs in the league and a backup tight end, he has opened the door to conversation.
Faculty, staff and UIndy alumnus may have many other hobbies that prevent them from prioritizing football. And fantasy football is not the only way to encourage friendly competition among different groups on campus. However, fantasy football can have many positive effects on employee morale, employee relations and alumni relations, and it is shocking that no department has acquired it as a way of increasing productivity.
Whether you decide to play running back by committee, team defense, points-per-reception or any other variation of the rules of fantasy football, don’t let the negative stereotypes about fantasy football make you apprehensive. And maybe soon I will be standing in line at The Perk listening to a professor bemoan to his colleague and newfound friend that he started San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick last week.


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