Getting the most out of your employees is always a struggle. Every year there’s a new study suggesting that workers are wasting more company time on the Internet, whether they’re playing games or placing eBay bids. Lately it seems fantasy sports, in particular fantasy football, has been flagged as the biggest employee time waster.
More than 27 million people in the United States are actively participating in fantasy sports, with approximately 14 million of those monitoring, picking up, trading, and gossiping online about their match-up on Sunday, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, the largest and oldest trade group representing the fantasy sports industry.
Moreover, research conducted by outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray, and Christmas says employees will spend an average of 50 minutes a week playing fantasy football. And with the season stretching from September through December, Challenger says businesses stand to lose $1.1 billion per week and more than $18.7 billion over the NFL season.
So what are companies to do? On one side you have employees who need interaction; allowing workers to participate in an outside function can be good for overall morale. Even setting up a work league can be a team-building experience where employees are able to interact with one another and build camaraderie. On the other side, companies may find a decline in work-related activity with not only the Internet running an interference but employees wasting time talking about who did what last week at Mile High Stadium and how they faired.
“Some organizations are very rigid about the type of nonbusiness activities that their employees engage in during work hours,” says Joe D. Buys, an expert in performance management and partner of Crystal Clear Concepts, a full service management and consulting firm that specializes in human resources, organizational development, and training. “It really depends on the organization’s culture. Since I am a strong advocate of performance management, I believe that an organization should explore everything it can that will maximize their employees’ performance and eliminate everything that inhibits performance.”
Whatever sideline activities happen in the workplace, there are ways companies can deter employees from goofing off and actually monitor their effectiveness.
Software companies such as WebWatcher have given businesses the power to monitor an employee’s computer and Internet activity with tools that allow peering in and invisibly controlling and recording all activities over the Internet, including e-mail, instant messaging, keystrokes, Web sites visited, and even searches. It can take screenshots of the computer in question and play them back as a video.
Monitoring-software maker SpectorSoft is confident it can save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It even offers a return on investment calculator that breaks down the number of employees, the number of minutes they spend online, and the cost of employees per hour.
Knowing there is software available for monitoring your employees is reassuring but if you can find ways to incorporate and allow workers certain freedoms, you might just get more production out of them and create an atmosphere in which they enjoy coming to work.