Managers are constantly wary of productivity busters in the office. Unfortunately, while the Internet has revolutionized the way businesses approach productivity in ways never before imagined, it has also brought with it new ways for sneaky employees to whittle away company time doing non-work-related things.

From social media to online shopping, the Internet is full of attention traps. One of the biggest such phenomena is in full swing right now: fantasy football. This rapidly growing hobby may have you worried about how much work your sport-thusiastic staff members are getting done. But you may be surprised to find that fantasy football can actually yield surprising benefits for your company.

The cost of fantasy football
Fantasy football is a phenomenon where participants “draft” teams of real-world players and score points based on how well they do in their weekly games. It’s exploded in popularity over the past few years, thanks largely to pop-culture media that features the activity prominently, like the television comedy “The League.”

But fantasy football may not be all fun and games, especially at the office. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the seasonal activity costs businesses around $16 billion each season in lost productivity. With the number of participants expected to climb to 56.8 million this season, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association reported – with 37.5 million of these people being employed full time.

The football season lasts only 17 weeks, but if each fully employed participant spends just one hour each of those weeks at work doing fantasy football-related activities, companies can expect combined losses in the billions.

Productivity for morale: The best trade of the season?
But before you impose a company-wide ban on fantasy football, these facts on the benefits to employee morale may make you call an audible. Forbes reported that 46.2 percent of companies surveyed indicated they didn’t care if employees spent time managing fantasy teams, as long as their work is getting done. And not only is fantasy football not necessarily a distraction, it may be beneficial.

Employment site noted that fantasy leagues offer something invaluable in a corporate environment: a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. Sure, fantasy football is all about the performance of your team, but it’s also a huge social event. In fact, some companies have gone as far as to create their own internal fantasy “league,” hosting draft events after hours and talking shop while at the shop, which can boost morale significantly.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you think fantasy football is harming your company’s productivity. If you need assistance with setting a policy, consider consulting with PEO companies for assistance with your HR needs.