Ed is a Principal Consultant at 4global and works with organisations from across the sports ecosystem on a wide range of projects, from national data strategies to site-specific investment modelling and feasibility. He recently returned from a three-month digital sport transformation project in the Middle East, landing back in the UK moments before the UK was plunged into lockdown.
What does a typical day look like for you right now?
While there are many, many things not to like about the current situation, one thing that I do treasure is not having to trek 1.5 hours to and from my flat in Brockley to our offices in Chiswick. As a result, I get to enjoy a more reasonable alarm clock before fitting in some sort of mobility or basic yoga class before breakfast. It turns out that sitting in an ageing (albeit very stylish) 1970’s office chair does not do wonders for your back after 10 hours without movement!
The first call of the day is a team update, which so far has consisted of everything from 1st player World of Warcraft demos from our development team, to presentations on the brilliant volunteering work that colleagues are doing to support people most impacted by COVID-19. We are then into the day, made up of calls with clients, webinars on the state of the sector and internal working sessions, all interspersed with use of my ever-growing coffee brewing kit, fuelled by a worryingly exponential caffeine addiction.
How have you adapted to remote working?
The biggest success of lockdown so far was convincing my partner that she would benefit from the extra light in the living room for her makeshift office, which leaves me to lock myself away in our spare bedroom/kit room/office as my working space. Apart from the daily wrestle with BT’s not-so-infinite infinity hub, I’ve found working remotely really positive so far. Although I miss having the opportunity to catch up with team members and clients face to face (it’s just never quite the same via VC), I’m sure this way of working is here to stay.
I’ve particularly enjoyed having the extra time to think properly about opportunities and potential risks to both existing projects but also to our industry as a whole. With the odd exception, I have found meetings to be far more efficient than they are in person and, when you remove the travel time within the day, this frees up a huge amount of time to get into things in far more detail. Recently this has included diving into reports of consumer confidence from all types of industries, as we try to understand how COVID-19 is likely to impact long-term trends in sport and physical activity.
What has been your biggest learning moment of the C19 era to date?
Unfortunately, it’s that a crisis is sometimes the only way to stimulate radical change. While the circumstances are truly awful, it’s fantastic to finally see a central Government strategy focussed on encouraging regular physical activity alongside (hopefully) significant investment into active travel, pedestrianised streets and workplace wellbeing.
On my regular runs around the local areas I have been struck by a real sense that the group of people joining me for a walk, jog or cycle are far more diverse than the typical set of lycra-clad PB-hunters that I typically try to covertly race. The necessity for people to escape from the four-walls of their homes has pushed people into the outdoors during a record-breaking spring, which may now be followed by an equally exercise-inducing summer. All I personally hope and all we can do as an industry is to do everything we can to keep these hard-to-reach groups engaged, motivated and supported, so that any COVID-19 incubated physical activity habit can be nurtured and developed when other attractions start calling again.
What is the lasting impact that C19 will have on the industry?
At the time of writing this blog my mind is swamped with figures, findings and insights from our whitepaper, co-written with ukactive and other national bodies, looking at the long-term impact of COVID-19 on our sector. We have been amalgamating data together from all over the world and passing it through numerous modelling scenarios, with projections showing us that while the industry as we know it will come back, it may look radically different when it does; think Becks when he shaved his hair off after kicking Simeone in ‘98.
While I am certain we will see change and there will be short term pain for our industry and many others alike, I am equally certain that this is the opportunity to share the joy of physical activity with a new global audience. In the long-term, hopefully we can look back at this period as the time when walking 2 miles to work became normal, the quick lunch-time exercise class was encouraged across all industries and everybody finally remembered to put themselves on mute during the company presentation.