The coronavirus public health crisis has severely impacted event planners across the globe in many ways. Many people are now having to work remotely to mitigate the spread of the disease – yet, findings from a new research study show that many event planners are finding it increasingly difficult to motivate teams and work from home.
The reality is that despite events being cancelled and postponed, the work hasn’t really stopped for a lot of planners. From dealing with crisis communications and managing delegate expectations to moving events online and planning for the future when the crisis is over – there is lots of work that can be done. Yet doing all this from home can bring about many challenges. And many opportunities too.
Let’s have a look at 6 key steps you can take to make the most of your time and ensure that working from home is as effective as it can be:
1. Define and Claim Your Space
When you work from home you need to claim your space. You have to decide where you will work and if there are other household members living with you, you need to be in agreement with them.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have space for a home office. You are likely going to need to make some changes. Your space has to be suitable for you to work effectively. Sitting on a sofa typing on your laptop doesn’t mean you have found your workspace. It goes way beyond that. The space needs to allow you enough room for you to be able do your job with ease.
Is this space going to work for you, when you have to take phone calls and attend video conferencing? Or will you need to go somewhere else for those. This may depend on how strong your phone or internet signal is. There can be ‘dead’ zones in properties. There may be young children in the picture too…
Printer cartridges, staples, envelopes etc. should be close to your space so that you can access them easily and quickly. It helps you be more productive too.
2. Get Connected
Getting connected to the internet is vital. When you connect, be sure to attach to your network and not that of your neighbour. If you need to reboot your router because your internet has stopped working, make sure you know where it is located and how to turn it on.
You will need all your log-in details for all the systems you use around your work. In your office you may have been relying on a colleague to solve your technology challenges. But of course, that colleague can no longer be next to you so you need to become your own problem solver.
It’s important that you become familiar with the technology and how to use video and collaboration platforms. If you get stuck then you may need to talk your IT helpdesk or a helpful colleague. Be prepared to take screenshots to help them understand exactly what you are looking at and solve your problem.
Make sure you store all your logins and passwords in a safe place. Plus you will need to get into the habit of running a daily computer virus scan to keep your laptop clean. Unless it is a device that belongs to the organisation and is automatically scanned by them on a regular basis.
3. Decide How to Work
Deciding how you will work may seem obvious. Just get up, get dressed and start work. Yes, that’s how it works in an office environment and everyone adheres in the same way. But, when you work from home, things change.
For some people there may be a temptation to work in their pyjamas. After all, no one can see them. But avoid staying in your pyjamas if you can, not even on day one. You have to be ready and in the right mind-set to work. Wear what you feel best in, whether that is a suit or jeans and a casual shirt.
Taking phone calls and being on video conferencing, means you will need a degree of quiet. Let your significant other, roommates and kids know when quiet is required.
Regardless of taking a phone or video call, it’s also important that you agree with other people living in your household, acceptable noise levels coming from the TV, radio or other activities. Some people are ok with background noise whereas others absolutely hate it. Try listening to relaxing music on YouTube or other streaming platforms. Whatever works you, is the way to go.
4. Establish When to Work
Working from home is not the same as working from an office. For a start, your travel time has been eliminated which gives you time to play with.
You will have more distractions on you from family members and pets. When you were in the office, you would have been kept separate from them. So whilst, you have extra time you also have more distractions, especially if you are having to home-school your children.
It’s therefore vital that you establish times when you will work. Get into a rhythm. For example, you may decide that you want to start working as soon as you wake up. You can get a couple of hours done before the household has arisen. Or you may be a night owl and do some work after people have gone to bed. Or you may be really lucky and work all the way through the normal office day.
Energy levels will determine how quickly you get through your work. When working in your office you have no choice, you have to be there. There is no opportunity for you to take a rest for 30 minutes. But, when you work from home you may find that a rest will give you more energy to return to a task later that day or the following day.
There will be times when you will become distracted. Working from home especially if you are new to it can be something that seems amazing at the beginning. You are your own boss. No one looking other your shoulder, no colleague listening to everything you say on the phone or making comments as to how long you took for lunch. But pretty quickly the honeymoon period wears off. What seemed a good idea of watching a few episodes of your favourite box set now means that you are behind with your work and you still have deadlines to meet. If you like working with pressure it can be a good plan but right now there’s plenty of stress and uncertainty around, so why add to it?
Expectation management with your boss is super important. You can be more productive by working fewer hours if you are really focused and that has to be the aim. If you are being paid for an 8 hour day, make a plan that gets your hours in, without making you feel like you are at work 24/7.
5. Talk to Your Boss and Colleagues
When you work from home, communication with your office is critically important. There is work that needs to be done and expectations to be met. This is where understanding what is expected of you is something that needs to be clearly defined. It’s more important than ever as we work through a time of crisis as nothing is as familiar as it was a few weeks ago.
Flexibility will be needed on all sides. What is the work that needs to be done and when does it need to be delivered? If your boss is checking on your progress every few hours, neither of you will make much progress. The same applies if you’re the boss and you’re managing teams remotely.
Ticking things off your to-do list can feel good because it gives you a sense of accomplishment. But is it really the most productive way of doing things? Apparently not. We regularly underestimate how long something will take us and we forget to factor this in.
Prioritise your tasks from most important to least important and for each task on your list, figure out exactly how much time you need to get it done. If you set a deadline for yourself, then this will help you avoid procrastination and ultimately work more effectively in the time that you have.
If you have been set unrealistic expectations with never-ending to-do lists from your boss you will need to have an honest discussion about what is possible. But don’t worry as they will likely be dealing with similar issues as they work from home.
Don’t forget to agree what’s acceptable for conference call times especially if you are dealing with countries that are half-way around the world.
Related reading: 8 time-wasting habits event planners should quit
6. Get in the Work Zone
Having worked through expectations with your boss and colleagues, now is the time to deliver it. Whilst you will be multi-tasking your life as you look after children, pets and your own wellbeing, you will need to be as focused as possible when you work. You really don’t want to be multi-tasking your work and here’s why.
Multi-tasking is a real productivity killer. According to research at Stanford University, multitasking has been proven to be less productive than doing a single thing at a time. Why? Because our brains lack the capacity to perform more than one task at a time successfully. We may think we’re multi-taskers, but what we’re actually doing is shifting back and forth from one task to another, such as writing an email, then doing a conference call, then back to email and so on. The research also found that people who multi-tasked, were actually worse at multi-tasking than those who liked to do a single thing at a time. It seems they had more trouble organising their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, they were also slower at switching from one task to another.
There may be some people that find themselves with not much to do immediately. It may be a good time to evaluate things, do some de-cluttering of papers, look at your event data, segment audiences, look at all those integration projects you wanted to do, research on new marketing ideas etc. Now is the time, because once the crisis is over, you will need to be working at lightning speed to deal with the inevitable demand.
Conclusion – Remember the Key Differences
Working from home is very different to working in an office. The work may well be the same, but everything else is different. The surroundings, the distractions and establishing your own schedule are the major challenges.
Some people really enjoy working from home, whilst others have a problem with it. During this time of the coronavirus public health crisis, many people have no choice but to work from home. And this could be for a long period of time. The sooner you can adapt to the new way of working, the better your life will become.
One of the keys is to appreciate that change is around and happening faster than ever. But, more than that, it’s to appreciate the people you work with and the people you live with. Get the expectations right with these important people and working from home will become a lot less stressful and you may find that you really enjoy it.
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