WorkZone: Is Fantasy Football good for office productivity?

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Ready for some football? Maybe not if you're an office manager.

Not when the kind of production your employees are most worried about involves rushing yards and pass completions. Or when the biggest trades they are contemplating involve Tom Brady and a player to be named later, not blue chip stocks.

For some bosses, the start of the Fantasy Football season might bring to mind the famous quote by former Tampa Bay football coach John McKay. When asked after another loss what he thought of his team's execution, he replied, "I'm in favor of it."

Who can blame office managers if they feel the same way when they find employees huddling around the water cooler to discuss team standings and player injuries rather than the project they've been assigned?

Terri Dougherty, associate editor at J.J. Keller & Associates, a nationally recognized compliance resource firm, said it doesn't have to be that way.

The Fantasy Football season, she said, can be a positive influence in the workplace rather than a source of the types of headaches more commonly induced by violent collisions on the field.

Ms. Dougherty, who has written about whether Fantasy Football helps or hinders the workplace, said it all starts with the office manager. As the quarterback of the workplace, he or she must establish the game plan when it comes to Fantasy Football and time management.

"You have to be aware of the general atmosphere in the department and make sure it doesn't get out of hand," she said.

That might mean limiting Fantasy Football discussions to lunch breaks or before and after shifts. It might mean reminding employees that computers are to be used for work, not checking the waiver wire.

Or it might mean talking to individual employees who become so wrapped up in their team's performance on the field that it affects their performance at the cubicle. "You can't be afraid to address it because it is an issue of productivity, as fun as [Fantasy Football] may be," she said.

At the same time, it does not mean the office has to be a No Fun League when it comes to Fantasy Football. Ms. Dougherty said there are ways to incorporate the competition into the workplace.

For instance, set aside time on Mondays to allow employees to use a lunch or conference room to discuss weekend results. Ms. Dougherty said one of her employers, at a lunch and learn session, brought in someone to talk about the history of Fantasy Football.

The season also could serve as a conversation starter for managers in interacting with their employees or in helping new workers to acclimate and feel valued.

And if you can't beat 'em, join them.

Managers may want to consider establishing a Fantasy Football league for the office, making sure to set limits to avoid problems. Ms. Dougherty said such a league could help with team building and morale.

"It can be a way for employees to get together to release stress, talk about something other than work and get rid of the pressures of the work day," she said.

By giving employees leeway to support their hobby within the confines of the workplace, it shows that "you are trusting them that they can get their work done. You're not micromanaging," she said.

Just so you know, Ms. Dougherty is no Ivory Tower academic when it comes to Fantasy Football and the office. She hails from Neenah, Wisc., near Green Bay, home of the fabled Packers franchise.

For a time, Ms. Dougherty played Fantasy Football herself. But she gave it up when one of her players, former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, got hurt. "I was devastated and I stopped," she said.

Now she plays vicariously through her husband, who has his own Fantasy Football team. That led her to another thought.

"I never did a story about the time spent at home [playing Fantasy Football]," she said with a laugh.

Talk about the potential for violent collisions.

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Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.


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