Can Remote Working Work In Sports?

“Office centricity is over”

Shopify’s CEO tweeted these words as the company announced it was keeping it’s office closed until 2021 and after that, most will work remotely. Add to that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg saying as many as 50% of employees could work remotely within five to 10 years, Twitter allowing its workforce to continue working at home ‘forever’ and many others following suit.

The has raised questions for many over recent weeks around whether this new way of working will become the ’new normal’ as companies review the costs and implications of housing all their employees in one place. But would this approach work in the sports industry?

Here at Samba Digital we have long been advocates and practitioners of what many of us have been adjusting to since the COVID-19 lockdown began. Why this unusual approach? Our CEO Frédéric Fausser explains;  

“We have 40 collaborators worldwide in about 10 different countries and it’s just not feasible to have an office in all these territories. We work on match days, during the week-end, in different time-zones, always needing to provide the best response times to our clients. 

Remote working has been our strategy for several years now and is part of our ‘DNA’. We have trust in our collaborators and employees and the targets & KPIs are clear for everyone, but we are also flexible on the daily work organisation.”

But, as many people will know from having adjust to using new technologies, missing seeing colleagues and maybe suffering from ‘ZOOM fatigue’, there are some drawbacks to flexible working. But these can be overcome through an inclusive approach and still having times when people meet up;

“I think you still need to organise some ‘physical’ events, that’s important for everybody. We have a strong company culture and it’s not possible to reinforce it globally if we never meet. 

We generally organise weekly meeting with the board, management team and social media managers. And we expect people to respect those times and to enable their webcam during meetings.”

But some things will never replace the feeling of actually meeting someone, which can be impossible in some situations when travel is very far (or not at all at the moment).

“From my point of view it’s also more challenging when you need to interview a candidate for a vacancy. The feeling is not the same.”

For technology companies such as Twitter, Square and Shopify this remote working approach can be relatively straightforward to achieve due to the nature of their work and use of technology. But what about in sports, can it work for everyone?

“I don’t think so. I think your organisation needs to be prepared. Using the right tools, the right processes. Training people, implementing weekly reviews. Our world is changing globally and we need to adapt.”

And there will be areas within sport where being physically present is a necessity. But with more emphasis on digital platforms and emerging technology there will be some who can certainly benefit, whether it be digital marketing agencies or broadcast production – more of which has become remote during lockdown , and successfully too. 

So if you are thinking of becoming less ‘office centric’ then here are some final words of advice from Frédéric; 

“I’d suggest to first talk with some other agencies or CEOs about their thoughts and experiences. There are also many podcasts about sports & digital which have been providing a lot of tips during COVID. 

Then choosing the right tools: Slack, Zoom and Google Suite work for us. And remember to always keep your customers & prospects informed about the changes your planning to make.”

Remote working can certainly work in sport, but only for the right roles and types of business. And being prepared through taking feedback from employees and clients, talking to others who have been through the process and ensuring the right technology and setups are in place is key. Over the next few months it won’t be “office centricity is over” but certainly not an must-have. 

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