Technology has played a massive role in enabling Sarai Bareman, FIFA Chief of Women’s Football, to continue the work she and her team have been doing to develop, promote and keep building women’s football globally throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now in her eighth week of working from home, Bareman shared some of the trials of a completely new work situation with colleagues from across the Pacific during Friday’s Pasifika Sisters Presents: Sarai Bareman.
“We have a routine going now, I have a home office set up and I’ve never used technology more than I have during this period. I have to say, it’s been eye-opening to see how much can be done remotely and I think it will contribute to a new way of working once this thing is over.”
Managing staff remotely has been another new challenge to adapt to and one in which technology has been crucial.
“The technology part of has been challenging in itself because everyone has their own preference in terms of the platforms they want to use, but to be honest it’s been ok. I try to talk to everyone on a regular basis on team calls, but also individually.
“I think the most important thing in a time like this is to recognise that everyone is reacting to it in a different way and everyone is in a different situation. You don’t always know what’s going on in their personal lives and with their families, so to be really sensible in that and to treat everyone first and foremost with an approach to their wellbeing and health, not only physically but mentally too as it’s been a very stressful time.”
Here in the Pacific, technology presents an obstacle in itself with intermittent power, irregular internet and access to devices making it difficult to stay in touch with team members and colleagues.
With intimate knowledge of the region, Bareman offered some solutions for people like Laite Tu’ivailala of Tonga who wants to keep volunteers and participants of the recently launched Heilala Manongi motivated.
“I’m very area that in many of our developing Member Associations that connectivity isn’t so good, and you said that a lot in the conversations we’re trying to have with our stakeholders,” she said.
“But to be honest, these things [smartphones] were just telephones before they became kind of hand-held computers and there’s nothing wrong with just picking up the phone and having a phone call.
“It doesn’t have to be by Zoom or Skype or Teams. There’re tools like WhatsApp, texting, anything like that to stay connected. And to be honest, I think it can be quite nice to go back a little bit to where we were before having one-to-one phone conversations.”
Heilala Manongi, a new participation programme, was launched just a week before Tonga went into lockdown and while Tu’ivailala is making weekly phone calls, she’s been looking for different ways to keep the 80 volunteers and 500 young girls engaged.
“It’s a common situation in many of our Member Associations and I think there are different tools you can use. One thing I have seen other Member Associations using to keep that level of motivation is things like online challenges for example,” Bareman suggested.
“Because the volunteers may not be able to interact with the players themselves, it doesn’t mean that they can’t go out and practice a drill themselves or look at the activities that were planned for the training sessions and you can set other each challenges for that time.
“You can use the curriculum that you have to guide what those challenges are so while it will hopefully keep them motivated, it’s reminding them of the content and keeping them fresh so when things do come back, they’re hopefully ready to go off the mark.
“You could use a forum like this [Zoom], there’s the Houseparty app which is quite popular and you can use your mobile phone, or you can have a forum where everyone can talk. And it doesn’t have to be about the programme and football, sometimes it’s nice just to have conversations with other people going through the same thing.”