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Remote working with UK Athletics: Donna’s Story

Category: testimonial, UK Athletics, Careers in sport, Flexible Working, Regulation, Flexible, sport, Sports, Women in Sport, Staff Testimonial, mental health, flexiblity, sportswomen, home working, UKA

Flexible Working.

Donna Fraser is the Equality, Diversity & Engagement Lead at UK Athletics. We spoke to Donna about the effect the COVID-19 lockdown has had on athletics and the people that work within the sport.

“I’m used to working from home but not being able to see anyone is hard. When you’re being forced not to do something you naturally want to do it,” said Donna.

For athletics, the biggest impact has to be that the domestic competitions have been cancelled or postponed until the end of May. The athletes themselves can’t train as they usually would and most employees for UK Athletics now must work remotely.

“The whole thing has been hugely impactful for sport across the UK. Our season would have been kicking off, with some athletes away warm weather training. Now the Olympics and Paralympics have been postponed until next year, alleviates some pressure but they can’t train to the standard they usually do,” said Donna.

There are challenges but Donna is also finding that positives are coming out of this situation:

“It’s having a huge impact but I try and see the positive in everything and the positive is the teams are coming together more. We’re talking more, relationships are improving. It’s changing the ways we’re working in a good way.”  

Of course, for the athletes themselves, the COVID-19 lockdown has meant significant change, but for many at UK Athletics the crisis is helping bring teams together on a more personal level and the communication between team members has accelerated.

“My team have weekly touch calls in place to talk and share what we’re all doing to keep active. It keeps people motivated and as an organisation we’re looking at different ways of keeping everyone engaged. Decisions are being turned around a lot quicker because you’re on hand you’re not going anywhere. I’ve noticed when I’ve needed answers from senior team they’re coming back quickly. People are more on the ball,” said Donna.

Donna has been mostly working from home for many years but, even for those used it, there are still major challenges.

“It will have a big impact on mental health, even for those that are used to working from home as there are restrictions in place. For those who thrive on people being around them and having little conversations by the coffee machine, this is going to have a detrimental impact. It’s important to touch in on those people and see how they’re doing,” said Donna.

Mental health is certainly a concern in the current climate but there are also day to day challenges.

“A challenge for me is staying hydrated. My office feels too small so I’m working from the dining room to have that natural light. The challenge is working in a different environment but trying to work the same. Getting up, walking around and having breaks. I always feel I’ve got to work more from home so you have to be more disciplined in having time out,” said Donna.  

With technology readily available to help make remote working a success, many teams across the world are finding ways around the fact that they can’t meet in person. So, are there benefits to taking advantage of these technologies?

“People feel more connected seeing faces. We had a virtual video meeting today using Microsoft Teams and the new CEO was able to join and that wouldn’t have happened had this not occurred. We were able to engage with CEO directly and putting a face to a name really makes a difference.”

We asked Donna if she had any tips for remote workers that may be struggling to get used to the lockdown:

“It’s about diet and exercise, there’s loads of things around that. Generally, 30 mins exercise a day is recommended and it’s just about improvising and learning to do that at home. And just because you’re at home and don’t have a manager around you doesn’t mean you can’t check in. That’s really important.”

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