Remote work in the sports & entertainment and live events industry will obviously look different in the future than it will for other industries. Many employees in the industry are starting to come back to the office, especially those in facility management or roles that require you to be in person for the live event. But many employees are still working from home, creating somewhat of a hybrid workplace. How might we rethink the benefits and perks we provide those employees? Can we provide perks and benefits that actually boost productivity and health?
If you look at massive tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, they used to pride themselves on their employee benefits in the war for talent. But those office perks like pool tables, free food, and free gym access are now obsolete. Your organization would never have been able to offer those types of Silicon Valley office perks due to the high costs. But as those companies go remote, the perks offered to remote workers become more affordable and reasonable to do at your scale.
This hybrid workplace allows you formalize a new set of benefits that you can use to win talent in the coming years. More than just free coffee in the office, or team lunches, you can use these benefits to truly boost employee well-being and productivity.
Here are seven remote work ideas I’d love to see sports & entertainment and live event companies offer in the future:
Mental Health Support
The Big Ten made a splash in May when they partnered with Calm app to provide mental health support for all Big Ten student-athletes, coaches and staff members. For a personal subscription, the app costs $59.99 for the year. With some negotiating power, I imagine you could bring that cost down and provide it for your staff.
Calm is just one of many mediation/mental health apps in the space. Apps like Headspace are competitors in the mindfulness and meditation space, but you could also provide a mental health stipend, allowing teammates to use it on alternative mental health support, with apps like Happify (for depression), Self-Help Anxiety Management SAM (for anxiety) or MoodKit (for general therapy).
Hopefully this pandemic has allowed senior leaders to take a step back and realize there are more important things in life than our work. Especially since our industry is primarily about entertainment, hopefully our leaders will come out of this pandemic with a greater focus on the well-being of their employees.
Individual Budgets for Outsourced Work
Think of all the time your team wastes on low value aspects of their job that has to get done. The employee hates those aspects of his/her job, and as a leader, it’s time that could be better spent, but someone has to complete the tasks. What if you could outsource those tasks to a lower cost per hour worker?
Enter platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. You can use it for help with creating decks for internal presentations, or for scheduling help, for something like research. Each employee might get a quarterly allowance, say $100- $250 to use on outsourced work on these platforms. Obviously, you’d primarily want to use this for internal work with non-proprietary information, but these platforms account for that with easy non-disclosure agreements integrated.
The best companies and leaders remove barriers for their employees and free up their time to do what they’re best at. This perk achieves that goal.
Access to learning platforms
One of the biggest skillsets need in a post-COVID world is the ability to continuously learn and reinvent. Unfortunately, that’s not been a strong suit in the sports & entertainment and live events industry. In large part, we’re so busy moving from one event to the next, putting out fires, so busy operating, that we don’t spend much time to reflect and seek out new information.
In recent years, platforms like Coursera, Linkedin Learning, Audible, have become more popular for professionals pursuing individual goals. But it’s up to the individual professional to pay for these courses, which can either present a barrier to skill growth or result in your employees developing skills that don’t necessarily move your business unit forward.
This is where I see learning platforms and senior leaders playing a significant role in shifting this paradigm. Imagine how much more innovative your organization would be if all of your employees had learning goals in their performance reviews, and a way for you to track the classes they were taking?
Instead of passing off professional development costs onto employees, senior leaders can drive direction of learning by providing access to different learning platforms. One platform we love that’s in beta right now is Sports Learning Online. The learning experience platform was designed specifically for sports & entertainment and live event companies to solve this very problem. They’re currently accepting emails to join their waitlist to access platform.
Workout classes and/or home gym equipment
It’s no surprise to this group the connection between physical and mental, so we’ll jump more into ideas than belabor the impact of why peak physical shape benefits the workplace.
Stipends here likely work best, as everyone has different fitness goals and preferences. Some people love yoga, some people want to powerlift. Even if your stipend doesn’t cover the full costs, it makes a difference.
There are options like Classpass, which has a freemium model giving users access to 4,000 on-demand workout videos. There are other apps like Aaptiv, where for $99 for the year, you can have access to their full library of audio based workouts and goal tracking. Many of these apps have programs now specifically tailored for employers for this very reason.
Bonus idea: can you create “office hours” in your own training facilities where employees can use the state-of-art equipment you’ve already got? Or when you upgrade to new equipment, what happens to the old equipment? Is that something employees might have access to?
We’ve all had the colleague whose kid has jumped on the Zoom call in the last six months. While many parents have enjoyed spending extra quality time with their children during this pandemic, parenting is clearly an additional full-time job. In a recent survey by TD Ameritrade, 57% of parents said homeschooling children and working a job is too much to manage. Especially in our industry of working nights and weekends for events, balancing work and child care can be quite difficult.
And it’s not just your employees feeling the pain. When your employees suffer, the organization suffers. Juggling child care and work can result in major productivity losses for the organization. According to a 2019 report from the Council for a Strong America, employers lose $13 billion in potential earnings, productivity and revenue every year due to inadequate child-care resources.
With this hybrid workplace and colleagues working at home, how might we support our colleagues with children?
Businesses of all sizes have begun incorporating childcare into their employee perks. Starbucks and Best Buy began offering this perk at the end of 2018, where they provided staff members with a free premium membership to Care.com, and $10 subsidized backup childcare days per year for when parents and caregivers unexpectedly find themselves without assistance. There are tons of alternatives to Care.com, like Urban Sitter, Bright Horizons or KinderCare.
Subsidizing child care isn’t just for the big guys though. Even if you’re a minor league baseball team or small event company, you can do this. You can deduct the subsidized amount of childcare for your employees, up to $150,000.
Meal kits or food & beverage delivery credits
Life in our industry often requires late nights. Which means you don’t always get time to grocery shop or even to cook at home. And that’s not changing. But what if we could acknowledge that with our employees, and help them out knowing that’s the reality? Enter meal kits like Freshly or Blue Apron, which solves the grocery dilemma. Or Postmates, Door Dash or GrubHub, which solves the problem of not getting home till 9 or 10pm. Or heck, what about Drizly, which can deliver alcohol after a big win?
One of my favorite ideas is the perk of choosing between a coffee, tea, wine or beer subscription. Each employee gets to personalize their subscription, but it you can arrange the deliveries to occur at roughly the same time, prompting the watercooler talk we all greatly miss. Some of the best companies for this are: Trade (coffee), Free Your Tea (tea), Winc (wine), Craft Beer Club (craft beer).
New types of vacation
In the world of sports & entertainment and live events, we often bounce from one event to the next without taking much time to rest and refuel. And when we do, it’s often in the form of weeklong vacations. But these “time-off” vacations can be stressful. The prep work leading up to the days off, making sure your backup is prepared, worrying during the vacation if your backup is doing the job correctly; and after all that, you still probably answer work texts or emails.
Instead of advocating for more vacation, which requires tons of red tape to clear and has $ attached to it, let’s look at some no cost/low cost solutions that allow your teammates to refuel.
Let’s start with the easy ones. Half-days after an event make all the sense in the world. Employees are usually working long hours the day before, so give them a chance to rest when they need it. Many organizations already do this informally, so why not just formalize it and use it as a recruiting tool?
What if we made Wednesdays meeting free? A day where you could actually get the work done that you need to. At EngageMint, we try to never have internal meetings before 12pm. This allows our team to actually complete the creative work or tasks they need to.
Speaking of creative tasks, hopefully leaders have seen a spark of new creative ideas since this pandemic began. And much of that was out of necessity in a fight for survival. We talked about this at length with Disney’s former Head of Innovation and Creativity, Duncan Wardle. To drive innovation, Google famously allows employees to spend up to 20% of their time on projects outside of their tasks and responsibilities. It’s not a formal process, but this type of mindset can break up the monotony of employees’ day-to-day, all while driving business innovation.
Spin on ergonomic equipment
If you’re like me, at the beginning of the pandemic you sat at your dining room table to work. After week or two, you and your back realized you needed a chair that was a more suited to long hours. So you went out and bought an actual office chair, designed for long stretches of sitting.
While an ergonomic office equipment stipend would work for most industries, we’re on our feet too much in our industry for that. But how might we use that idea and apply it to our world? When we get back to hosting live events, maybe instead of stiped on ergonomic office equipment, there’s a stipend for ergonomic clothing.
In my time working with athletic departments and pro teams all over the world, too often I’ve seen employees on event day logging long hours in dress shoes not designed for the mileage we put in, or running shoes that don’t look the part, but provide the support we need. Same situation goes for pants and other clothing.
It’s not for not existing; the barrier is usually price point. Brands like Wolf & Shepherd are built for this, dress shoes you can literally run a marathon in. But they usually run at $249 per pair. You wont find me working at an event in anything but Lululemon’s ABC pant, but they run $128 per pair. With some sort of stipend, you can help support your employees bodies on those long, brutal days.
Random thought as I’m typing: It’s not in this category, but even a massage stipend would go a long way. The gist of this category as a whole – think of things you know would be a good investment to help improve your employee’s health, but it’s something they likely wouldn’t spend the money on themselves.
No matter which strategies you employ, the basic principle remains the same; the extent to which you genuinely care for your employees is the extent to which they’ll care for your customers and fans. Times have changed, and just as you’ve had to adapt to serving your customers, you’ve got to do the same for your employees.