It’s no secret that working from home offices has become accepted and event preferred in a variety of industries. We wondered about where the issue stands in the meetings and events world, so we visited four home offices and talked to two longtime industry pros, all located in the Denver and Boulder areas, to get the inside scoop.
“Without question, this industry has a supportive position about virtual offices. There are many senior leaders that don’t necessarily live in a place with an office. More and more hoteliers and suppliers are working from home, and in our industry we have whole companies that are virtual with no brick-andmortar,” says Gary Schirmacher, CMP, senior vice president, industry presence and strategic development for Experient, a Maritz Global Events Company
Schirmacher has been an advocate for telecommuting and virtual offices since 2001, when the company started to offer team members the option. Today, 100 percent of the Experient Sales Network is virtual, and there are seven physical offices across the country. “We have always had a distributed workforce in cities where there is no physical office and virtualized our offices in Atlanta and Denver in 2013, where all staff in those cities now work at home,” he says.
“Let’s face it, when you travel 100 days a year, you are not really reporting regularly to an office anyway—even if that’s your primary address—so offering a home-office environment to those road warriors provides a level of flexibility and efficiency that is appreciated,” Schirmacher shares.
Deb Brannon, owner of Altitude Events in Golden, concurs, “We truly have the perfect industry for someone to work from home. With as much travel as many meeting planners do, it’s nice to be ‘home’ when you are home!” Her home office overlooks a spacious yard where wildlife casually strolls or flies by as she accomplishes tasks and communicates with clients.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Katherine Frost’s office is tucked in a nook of her downtown Denver condominium at The Ritz-Carlton Residences surrounded by windows overlooking the city’s skyline. “I have often thought about renting a space to work in, such as a shared or collaborative workspace environment, but I really enjoy working from home. It does not matter how long I work or how early I start working, the space is always just as I left it,” says Frost, who owns A Frosted Affair. “I have never felt pressured to have an external office space.”
In fact, more and more companies have embraced the work-from-home practice to cut office expenses with the added bonus of seeing productivity improve when employees aren’t spending time around the water cooler and strolling between offices, observes Tracey Rath, global account executive for ConferenceDirect. “Working in a home office environment, there just simply are not as many distractions.”
ConferenceDirect has a fair number of staff stationed at its headquarters and satellite offices to run divisions such as housing, registration and mobile apps, she says, but much of the workforce is located in home offices.
While five of the industry pros we talked to work at home full-time, Amanda Nelson, owner of Centennial-based AKN Events and a meeting planner for the Western Governors Association, just started working at WGA’s downtown Denver office two or three days a week. Nelson packs a lot in during the days spent at home. She says, “It is amazing how much you can get done at 5:30 a.m. before the rest of the working world has begun their day.”
Owner, Altitude Events, LLC, GOLDEN
Off and on for a total of 9 years
Doobie, a boxer/bull mastiff
Challenges and Opportunities
“There are definitely days where I need to get out and have more social interaction. Occasionally, I will go to a coffee shop to work, just to have a change of scenery. Or I will go to my client’s office and work there to have a face-to-face meeting. I absolutely love working from home, but there are days it is good to change things up!”
» Have a space/office that is separate from your normal day-to-day routine. “When I first started working from home, I worked at my dining room table and my computer was always there, so I felt like I needed to work all of the time.”
» Have a door on your office to close when you are done working.
“I was on a conference call with a prospective client, and the UPS delivery man arrived, so my dog Doobie went nuts barking. It ended up being fine, but it was definitely embarrassing! I was glad that the prospective client had a sense of humor!”
“The view out of my office is North Table Mountain and pine trees; it’s quintessential Colorado, which I love. Our yard is constantly filled with wildlife, such as rabbits, deer, fox and owls. It is nice to take a break from working and enjoy the view and the wildlife, makes it feel more serene.”
“If the weather is nice, I like to take advantage of our back deck where I can meet with my clients and have coffee and maybe even a deer sighting. I live right on a hiking trail, so I’ve also had clients come for a meeting and then we go on a hike.”
Owner, AKN Events & Meeting Planner, Western Governors Association, CENTENNIAL
Mike, her husband who works in his own home office twice a week
Challenges and Opportunities
“It is a great way to transition from being at home full time with your kids to going back to work full time. It takes a while to get used to not being accessible for your family 24/7, but once that transition begins you start to see the shift of not feeling accessible enough for your job.” She adds, “I think that is the balance we all strive to achieve. The work-home balance and being able to give our time to both entities and doing them both well.”
» If possible, set up your home office so it can serve a variety of purposes. “My kids also needed a computer area for their homework, and I wanted a room in our house that was built for having coffee talk or a glass of wine at night.”
» Make the space your own, using colors that are appealing. “The words ‘ladies lounge’ came to me early on in the planning process. It was a way to keep my rowdy boys out of the space!”
“It was in the beginning stages of working from home and using video conferencing. I had just been to yoga, and I was still sweating and didn’t realize my video was on. … I have been extremely careful to cover my video screen on my computer since that minor error.”
“I have a very close friend who is an interior decorator [Danielle Drohan Interiors], so I called her immediately and said, ‘I am moving my dining room to my current livingroom space, and then making my old dining room into a ladies lounge/office. Help!’” Nelson shares,“She knew immediately that I needed four club chairs as my conversation place. She also knew my love of my hometown, Chicago, and immediately filled the wall with a large three-piece photo of the skyline. Lastly, she knew to put in a very fun chandelier. I love all the new funky lighting pieces, and I think they can transform a room immediately.”
“I never use my office for client meetings, mostly because I am in the suburbs and I do not mind running downtown for meetings whenever needed.”
Owner, A Frosted Affair, DENVER
Lily, a black-and-white cat
Challenges and Opportunities
“The challenge of working from home is not being able to collaborate with my team as easily. If we all worked in the same office, then we would be able to talk more freely and in person on a regular basis.” She adds, “The opportunities, though, far outweigh the challenges. Since I live downtown, I am able to walk to meetings instead of driving in for them. I am able to have a quiet space to make phone calls to clients or potential clients and discuss details without having external noises impede my call.” TIPS » Create an office space where all work related activities can be held and not interfere with the rest of your home environment.
“I have a small, 6-pound cat that needs lots of love and attention when I am on the phone. She sleeps on the sofa behind my desk the rest of the time, but as soon as I hop on a call, she jumps onto my desk and tries to sit on my computer and meows at me until I constantly pet her.”
“I have a crisp white desk right in front of a window and love to look outside and see the weather rolling in or planes flying around.” She says, “I like keeping everything neat and tidy because being extremely organized is not only helpful for my events, but it also helps me feel less stressed about work when I clock out for the day and want to watch a little Netflix.”
“The beauty of living in a condo is having access to a shared space with a conference room and not have to worry about where to meet or if there will be enough seating, etc.”
Founder, CampExperience Network & Co-Host, Boost Power Radio, ENGLEWOOD
21 years in various cities
Oreo, a maltzu, and Finn, a cavanese
Challenges and Opportunities
“I love that I can immediately be productive by just walking downstairs and jumping into action. The bad news is it is hard to stop working when I can just get one more thing done and am not leaving to drive home.” She adds, “Good news is I love my dogs. Bad news is needy or barking dogs in my lap or causing a ruckus when I am on professional video calls or worse yet, recording videos.”
» Hire someone to help set up your office space. “I have rock star productivity because I hired the Closet Factory in Centennial to custom design my workspace. They took a bland downstairs room and built in the desk and storage of my dreams.”
» Decorate with colors, fabrics and features that make it feel like a sanctuary and a visionary place.
» When on video calls, make sure to be all business on the upper half but it’s perfectly okay to be casual on the lower half (yoga pants!).
“I record interviews with women around the world from my office. Many times, I have to encourage my family not to enjoy their home or to be quiet and peaceful.”
“I work in the basement with just two small windows, thus enters the yellow and orange paint and all of the photography from around the world. I have my own art and collected treasures from my global adventures.”
“I meet up in my lovely great room kitchen with our cappuccino machine and a nice table for working. I also have clients over to my craft room to do art for extra-special connecting.”