Apr 27, 2020 - Sports

The virtual NFL draft offers a remote work awakening

Illustration of a football helmet on a coffee mug

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Remote work is not a new concept, and neither is having a home office. But the abrupt switch to telecommuting en masse due to coronavirus has accelerated shifts in how work is conducted — and fundamentally changed how we view our jobs.

Driving the news: The NFL had its awakening this weekend during its virtual draft, where coaches and general managers were shown working from home, oftentimes with their children in the background.

  • Many of them have said how much they enjoyed the experience, and commissioner Roger Goodell — thrilled with the record viewership (55 million) and generally positive reviews — already said he wants to keep some of the elements used this year for future drafts.

What they're saying: In addition to revealing how much can be accomplished from the comfort of one's home, the virtual NFL draft — and the limited offseason — has also inspired coaches and GMs to think about making permanent improvements to their work/life balance and working smarter rather than longer.

  • "[It] was unanimous. So many coaches wondered, do we really need to work the sheer hours we do when their work was really done? Literally every person mentioned the extra time with his family. A legit eye-opening experience," tweeted NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
  • "It's been a lot of fun actually," said Dolphins coach Brian Flores. "I haven't spent this much time with my family — my kids, my wife — in a long time."
  • "If we can find a better work-life balance in the months of February, March and April, I'm all for it," said Lions GM Brian Quinn.

The big picture: The NFL is a cutthroat business full of Type-A personalities who spend every waking hour seeking out an edge over their opponents. But the coronavirus disrupted that and "left everyone questioning the wisdom of spinning their wheels nonstop," writes Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel.

  • "Can't we just video chat with that prospect, not host them on an all-day visit to our facility? Isn't watching college game tape at home more insightful than flying to some far-off campus to witness a scripted pro day? Does a mid-morning playdate with my daughter actually sharpen my focus?"

The bottom line: Remote work is still uncommon in the U.S. (3% of Americans primarily worked from home in 2017) and there's ongoing debate about its effectiveness. But it has given millions a glimpse of a different way of life amid this pandemic, even the buttoned-up NFL.

Go deeper: The NFL's virtual draft experiment goes smoothly

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