A blessing in disguise
For anyone who doesn’t know me or hasn’t worked with me yet, my name is Helen. I’m the Staffing and Entertainment Executive at Experience Engine and last week officially marked my 3-month anniversary with the agency (although it feels like so much longer).
This short article will be the first of many over the next few weeks in which each of our team will discuss something they are passionate about or something relevant to our current situation whether that be as an individual, company, country or even as the wider world. Of course, being the first I thought it would be silly not to address the biggest thing affecting us all right now.
There’s no ignoring it at the moment, coronavirus is impacting everyone. Everyone is remembering what’s important to them, how lucky they were to be able to roam freely and realising how much of their normal day to day routine they took for granted. Every business is having to adapt, whether it be working out how their employees can work from home, how to keep them motivated and positive during these uncertain times or how their business and/or products can be adapted and maintained. There is no hiding from the fact the events industry and the many self-employed people within it are suffering right now, with no clue how long it will last for or when things will go back to normal. The Experience Engine team has been working at home for a couple of weeks now. We were all more than happy and willing to follow the guidance given from the offset and all eager to do our part to prevent the spread of the virus. However, there’s no denying that it’s been a massive change for all of us, not only as an agency that is used to being busy from start to finish each day, but as individuals.
Anyone who knows me knows, and I’m sure my colleagues would wholeheartedly agree, that I’m loud, energetic and rarely not talking. I love being busy and I love juggling lots of different tasks at the same time. I get a buzz from solving problems and I invest a lot emotionally and physically into my work. I also really enjoy and look forward to interacting with my colleagues each day and with our Experience Engineers, which is a massive part of my role. This, along with the fact I have never actually worked from home before, meant I knew that it would be a bit of a shock to the system. I made the decision pretty quickly that I wanted to be close to my family during this time. The flexibility of being able to work from anywhere in the country and the encouragement of our management team for us all to be wherever we felt most comfortable supported this decision. So, after 8 years of living in the bustling city of Leeds, I decided to pack as much up as I could, water my plants and head back to the small market town I grew up in.
I was definitely concerned initially, as I’m sure most employees and employers have been, that I would struggle to reach the same level of productivity sat at my mum’s dining room table or in the garden under an umbrella. There’s no denying that the stylish city centre office I’ve become accustomed to really helps me to focus my mind and get my work done. Most importantly, I knew I would instantly miss the small close-nit team we have at Experience Engine HQ. Our ability to work as a team is what makes it such a great place to work, we support each other daily working towards collective goals, and are in constant communication with each other discussing ideas and asking questions (speaking for myself on this one). I also knew I would without a doubt miss having a daily routine. I didn’t realise how much I appreciated the small things we did consistently each day, whether that be our 9am catch up over breakfast, our 3pm afternoon brew and biscuit break or even just my walk to work through the busy city, which guaranteed I arrived at work refreshed, awake and ready for the day.
I knew finding some normality and a sense of routine was vital to me surviving working from home and something I decided I needed to figure out as quickly as possible. I made the conscious effort to get comfortable in my new surroundings, starting by unpacking my suitcase. I made sure to set up my laptop in its stand, keyboard and mouse set up exactly how I would if I was at my office desk, with my daily planner and favourite highlighters at the ready. I decided to set myself goals each day, no matter how small, as I did in the office writing them down and highlighting them on completion. I even made sure to allocate different loungewear for my work hours to my relaxation hours.
It definitely took me a while to get my head around the fact I wouldn’t be busy from start to finish each day, and I wouldn’t be actively staffing for our events and booking our incredibly talented team onto roles. However, I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy having the time to really think about all the things I’ve been meaning to do for months, both in and outside of work. I’ve been filling my days with research and planning for the future, which often got lost amongst the busy day to day life of events and I’ve really been enjoying it. Not having ten different jobs to do at the same time felt scary at first, but to have the time to stop and reflect has been really enlightening. I’ve been watching webinars that have left me feeling really fulfilled. I’ve been doing exercise daily and taken up yoga. I’ve finally completed the life admin that I’ve been putting off for months. I finished my first book since I was at university – and I actually enjoyed it! I’ve been spending less time scrolling through social media, less time watching tv and more time focusing on myself and the people around me that mean the most to me. Finding these positives during such a scary time has kept me sane.
As I’m sure anyone in a similar profession will agree, being in the events industry during this time is nothing short of surreal. The whole premise of our events is to bring people together, to encourage footfall and to interact closely with the public, which at the moment is understandably the opposite of what we should be doing. It’s been tough seeing events and projects we’ve all worked towards cancel with no idea when or if they will be able to take place again in the future. I miss working in a bustling industry full of creative, hardworking and energetic people eager to entertain, provide great service and put on exciting and innovative events.
If lockdown has made me realise anything, it’s that I took all the small things for granted. All the normal, seemingly boring things about day to day life are what I miss the most. Not only that, it’s made me realise how much I love our industry. Seeing everyone come together, supporting small businesses and one another has been heart-warming, and something I have always been so proud of being a part of. The number of messages we’ve had from our Experience Engineers checking in our welfare and wishing our team well during these uncertain times has been humbling and has made me so thankful to have them on our team and so sure we will come out of this stronger.
I couldn’t be more confident in our agency and the industry to pick itself up after what will likely be an extremely testing few months. Following these seriously crazy times, events are exactly what we will need to bring life and vibrancy back into our lives. I can’t wait to be part, no matter how small, of rebuilding the events industry, helping our clients relaunch their events and venues. I for one promise when everything is back to normal I will force myself to slow down every now and again and when I have that day where I’m struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed in the morning, I will think back to these times and remind myself just how lucky I am.