As the summer comes to close and pre-season games for fall sports start up, two words strike fear in the hearts of managers: Fantasy Football. In the next few days, millions of people will gather to pick their players for their Fantasy Draft. Over the course of the following 17 weeks, league participants will be researching, building and managing their teams, as well as watching every Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights to see if their players are scoring touchdowns, making tackles and getting interceptions. Sounds like a great way to spend free time, but what happens when Fantasy Football becomes a priority over your job?

Last year, 57.4 million people participated in a fantasy sport league, primarily football. Of those 57.4 million, 67 percent had full time jobs. Sure—most of those people will probably claim they didn’t let it affect their jobs, but we know that’s not entirely true. In fact, it was estimated that employers lost approximately $16 billion in lost productivity last season—and that number has been rising steadily for years. While that number represents just one hour of unproductive work each week, it’s clear that one hour adds up quickly.

Your company may block certain sports websites or pass around memos regarding the issue, but the reality is that fantasy players will find a way. Whether on their personal phones or tablets, in the breakroom or in the bathroom stalls, if a trade is on the line, they’re going to make it happen. You’ve really got two options here:

  1. If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. In a 2006 survey by Ipsos, 40% of respondents said fantasy sports participation was a positive influence in the workplace. Another 40% felt it increases camaraderie among employees. Set up an office pool and establish deadlines that will require trades and other items to be completed before working hours begin.
  2. Get time back from somewhere else. Encourage productivity in all other hours of the workday by offering employee engagement programs like the ones we provide at Errand Solutions. In just one month last season, we helped one of our clients get back 3,914 hours that would have been spent working on personal to do lists. Remember—those hours add up. If we’re following the same math used to figure out that gigantic number for the entire season, this lucky client got back nearly $98,000 that would otherwise have been lost.

In both options, you’re doing something really important: getting your employees excited about working for you. In the world of employee engagement, that’s a real touchdown.