Staying creative in a virtual events world

The events world has been turned upside down by the current COVID-19 pandemic, forcing a switch to a more virtual space and highlighting the need for fostering creativity.

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Virtual Teams

The concept of virtual teams has gained considerable attention with recent technological advancements. Global organisations have been evolving to virtual working environments for many years, as it allows organisations to employ the most talented and experienced people regardless of location – increasing diversity in a team can lead to new perspectives and ways of working.

However, the majority of companies have now been compelled to adapt to this style of working, due to the pandemic. Working from home (WFH) involves collaboration and teamwork between a separated workforce and emerging technologies help to facilitate such collaboration and enable teams to share knowledge and expertise. 

While virtual teamworking is seen as necessary for global organisations, more so now than ever, many authors such as Jackson and Handy, argue that ‘virtuality’ requires trust relationships to make it work. It is important to consider the trust relationships that we share with our fellow employees, these are built through face to face interaction and socialisation and have been identified as essential to efficient virtual teams. 

With this in mind, employers need to provide an environment for socialisation, allowing trust relationships to be built and nurtured despite the physical distance within the working environment.

Building upon these trust relationships allows employees to learn how to perform as a team, which is an essential foundation to help develop creativity and form a competitive edge. Organisations can build a common sense of collaboration through a wide range of new ideas, helping to improve employees’ drive of curiosity, to explore and unlock the mind to new ways of learning and tackling problems which overall increases employee motivation.

Creativity in Events

Creativity involves two distinct processes, thinking, imagining and new idea generation; then acting on these ideas, making them a reality and solving practical problems. Studies show that creativity is one of the most important characteristics to have as a person, in order to be successful. Not only is it about solving things in an original and innovative way, it is about collaborating and interacting with others.

Creativity in event management is especially important in the current climate. The shift to working virtually has opened up creative possibilities for event planners in nearly every field! The freedom to leverage digital tools, to cultivate physical and temporal creative space, to research and fill the ‘creative well’, and to find those places where creative innovation is needed most, (like how we communicate and stay productive in a post-covid business reality) is only the beginning of a creative boost.

The only downside about creativity in event management, is that stress can become the enemy. To be creative in event management they must try to mitigate the stress in their life in order to be able to focus their energy and keep your mind open enough to embrace your creativity. Instead of worrying about your schedule or monotonous tasks, you’ll have the energy to focus on creating an amazing experience for event attendees.

So what can you do to nurture your creativity at home?

Is this the future of events?

Due to COVID-19, digital communication has improved and people are more comfortable using video conferencing technology. Companies are re-considering reopening post lockdown, with some closing physical work spaces completely, others downsizing their office space and making the most of ‘the new normal’ that is working from home. This may be the most cost effective and sustainable way for businesses to move forward into the post pandemic world, especially with the great financial toll that Covid-19 has had on the events industry.

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According to a survey from Enterprise Technology Research (ETR), by 2025, an estimated 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month. While 2020 may be considered the year of remote work, it is just the beginning, as we see the trend continuing in 2021. The percentage of workers permanently working from home is also expected to double in 2021. So, what will the long term impact of this be on creativity, especially within the events industry. Are we already running out of ideas?

So, what are your experiences

Have you preferred working from home?

How has the loss of physical proximity with your team members affected your creativity in work?

Will working from home be your new normal?


David Croft says:

Have you preferred working from home?
Yes. Much more productivity, more time with family as no travelling. Once I’d made a desk, got an ergonomic chair, a large monitor and a coffee machine in lockdown 1 much better.

How has the loss of physical proximity with your team members affected your creativity in work?
It’s improved. We were always travelling separately and now easy to use Teams to connect regularly. Also for us lots of new services to create to cope with no travelling for our clients so a very innovative year.

Will working from home be your new normal?
Yes. Most of our clients have said they will be in the office 2 days a week. So no point in us travelling anywhere near as much. Also for me much less tired as no travel and more output so my employer has less costs and more work so keen to support this decision.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi David, thank you so much for taking time to engage with our blog. Your answers are informative and we were wondering were there any challenges you encountered while working from home and if so what were they? You mentioned you support working more at home in the future but do you find talking to your clients online as productive as talking to them face to face?

It is great that you have found creativity and innovation have flourished and the team have been potentially more productive without the hassle of travelling to and from work!

Maria says:

Have you preferred working from home? – I’ve worked from home the majority of time for the last few years since my daughter was born. It’s great for flexibility for childcare, but I wouldn’t want to do it all the time and for me the balance is needed to also go to the office once a week or so.

How has the loss of physical proximity with your team members affected your creativity in work? – I’m a project manager so creativity isn’t that much of my job description, and I don’t feel that the quality of my work is affected.

Will working from home be your new normal? – it was normal anyway but my company has decided to move to blended working so everyone will be working from home more going forward

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Maria, thank you for taking the time to comment on our blog. Your answers are really interesting, and we agree that balance is great for providing flexibility around peoples’ lifestyles as well as enough stimulation. We were wondering if you could expand a little on why you wouldn’t want to fully work at home, if you don’t mind? What ratio in days do you think is ideal from working online to face to face i.e 3:2?

andrew western says:

My contract of employment was changed during the first lockdown to full time working form home. This has become the ‘new normal’ for me with very few face to face meetings anymore (unless virtual meetings won’t work for the desired outcome).
I have personally preferred working from home, mainly because of the increased flexibility of my working day.
The lack of physical proximity with my team has not effected the creativity. Everyone has quite specific roles and responsibilities, so this element hasn’t changed at all. And if anyone in the team is struggling with an element of their work, it’s a lot easier to call a virtual meeting to discuss. I have found that virtual meeting are much more productive as you have an allocated time to discuss what it is you need to discuss, and people seem to get straight to the point. I find it a much more efficient way of working.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Andrew, thank you for your comments, we found them really helpful. It’s wonderful to hear that you have preferred this style of working and that it hasn’t had an effect on your creativity levels. Really liked your answer about finding virtual meetings more effective and productive than working on site.

Roger Croft says:

I did learn how to teach online so I have new skills. At the start it was exciting and yes I felt creative. After months of online work I went back to school and taught face to face. The students applauded me as I walked in. We prefer face to face for learning. However, there is a place for online and perhaps a skill I will have to use again in the future. eg Professional training, distance learning or another pandemic.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Roger, thank-you very much for your comment and engagement with our blog. How did you stay creative while you were teaching online? Did you find it challenging at times and if so how?

Roger Croft says:

I thought of the students the at the other end. I tried to put myself in their shoes and then how learning could be better for them or how a different concept could be presented. For me creativity is not always a fun technique, but bourne out of desire, iteration, and not lowering your standards. I keep aware of feedback. Informally and formally I reviewed online sessions to work out what could be done better. I then focussed on perhaps 2 or 3 possible strategies. Then I ran through each strategy in my mind a crude visualisation before trying it out in practice with one group and then rolling it out.

Amy McLean says:

My job has changed only slightly as a preschool teacher, I am working fully outside. Our staff meetings are remote and at home. I enjoy that component because I can make a coffee and my kids can play while I’m in a meeting. My creativity has not suffered at all being home, in fact I feel I’ve been more creative. I write, I paint, I read, etc. Though with the pandemic, I find that I have started a lot of creative projects (refinishing a bed, framing pictures, etc) and have to really push myself to see them through to completion. I get bored midway through the process. In that way, I think group collaboration is so helpful because you have the creative conversation and more accountability. Working outside and having to rethink my job in a new capacity has forced me to be creative in the way I teach. I think the pandemic has forced a lot of businesses to rethink their model and get creative. I won’t be working from home, but our school will remain fully outside all next year. It’s the new normal!

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Amy, thank you for sharing your positive experience with us, it is nice to hear that you have found different ways to stay creative with your work through this pandemic. I agree with your statement that this pandemic has forced businesses and people to think outside the box and try different ways to stay creative!

IHT says:

So, what are your experiences…
I’ve really enjoyed working from home. Yes of course it is easier to plan events in person but I have really enjoyed the creativity it has taken to put on successful events whilst all staff are working from home.

Have you preferred working from home?
At first I hated it! But now I have grown to really love it. My company are planning on moving office and reducing the office size to 50% capacity so even if I was to go back in full time it would never be the same! I much prefer working in my home environment and I am much more productive because now I can use the time I used to use commuting to get more things done.

How has the loss of physical proximity with your team members affected your creativity in work?
We have had to become much more creative! I am lucky to be in a team which is very communicative and that involves talking to lots of different people so I don’t feel I have been negatively impacted by this – if anything it has improved my creativity! I can definitely see how it would affect others though.

Will working from home be your new normal?
Yes 100%. Although I will have to go in to the office occasionally to complete certain tasks and oversee certain events, working from home has given me a better work life balance and has allowed me to up the standard of my work.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Izzy,
Thank you so much for sharing your experience and taking the time to comment about working from home over the past year!

It’s great to see that you have become so much more creative and you have a team that helps and supports you with this. It is very interesting to see you see WFH as your new normal with only occasionally going into the office, I feel like is going to be the case for many for the time being.

It is so interesting that your company are planning on moving office and reducing the office size to 50% capacity, showing that for your company WFH has been a big success. You make an interesting point about how working from home makes you more productive because there is no commuting so you have more to get more things done.This raises an interesting point that perhaps by taking out the mundane tasks we can be more productive and thus more creative with our time and work.

Mark Cooper says:

We can expect any changes to working environments which changes the amount of in person interactions, to influence how we value live meetings and conferences.

No great relationships have been formed over video conferencing and we can expect individuals to seek out business events to replace the interactions over the water-cooler that used to happen in the office.

We may have less business travel over the next 2 years, but that is not a indicator of the amount of regional or national face to face meetings that we will crave, to get with our colleagues or customers.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Mark!

Thank you so much for engaging with our blog. I definitely agree that there is very little that replaces in-person interactions, or gives the same satisfaction and the pandemic has certainly made us appreciate these moments more! It is interesting to hear that you feel great relationships cannot be made virtually, do you feel this is only when interacting with new people and clients or do you feel it has negatively effected your existing relationships with colleagues? Our research suggested that trust relationships are difficult to form virtually, so perhaps this is the main issue.

Have you felt less inspired at home, coming up with new ideas or is it just the lack of physical contact that has been a bit of a struggle? I hope we see a return to a more physical type of working again, even if it does look slightly different.

Alice Wright says:

Have you preferred working from home?
I have actually been working remotely for a few years already (as have lived abroad) so actually returning to the UK and working from home during the pandemic has not been a huge change for me. Working remotely has been my preferred way to work for a while now as I very quickly learned that it gives me more control over my time. Working for a small business, my time was often pulled into the work of others when I did work in the office, especially when deadlines loomed. However now that everyone is working from home due to the pandemic, it has forced individuals to really establish their roles and responsibilities. As a result, this has made our work more planned and less reactive, and our delivery more organised and effective.

Working from home has also given me more hours in the day. I am lucky that my manager has trust in me that I will work my hours and deliver what is asked of me (which I also believe WFH has enabled me to further prove). These extra hours in the day and flexibility in working schedule has helped reduce my stress levels as things like domestic chores, cooking and the general life admin that we all have to manage has been able to be woven throughout my day. This leaves me more time to relax in the evenings and switch off from work. From a wellbeing angel, I think that the pandemic has forced people to realise the impact that a long commute / spending so much time away from home has on their mental health and stress levels.

How has the loss of physical proximity with your team members affected your creativity in work?
I have a weekly video catch up with my manager and we use tools like WhatsApp for work to chat throughout the week and discuss new ideas. My job is very creative and one change is that I have had to adapt to is I now have to heavily rely on written feedback rather than verbal. At times it has been hard to gather exactly what people are meaning without face to face cues, however I have also found that WFH have given me the space to work in multiple locations (office, dining room, beach) and take breaks for creative thinking which has really improved the quality of my work.

I do miss seeing my colleagues on a day to day basis, however I have WFH alongside my partner so have had him to share lunch times with etc. I do think I will feel more isolated once he returns to work as I will spend all day in the house on my own and will therefore crave more physical proximity and contact.

Will working from home be your new normal?
I hope to continue WFH part time – with 2 days in the office and 3 days from home. I think that my manager see’s that I am actually more effective and I complete work to a higher standard when I have the freedom to work in this way. However I will use the 2 days in the office to gather information, feedback and content that I need.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Alice
Thank you so much for sharing your positive experience about working from home over the last few years, it is very interesting to see your perspective and how COVID-19 has had little impact on your style of work as someone that remotely works from home. However It is amazing to hear that working from home has allowed you to encounter new experiences for you to manage and organise your time most effectively, I feel like this would be the case for many others.

You make an interesting point about how having a good relationship with your manager has helped build a sense of trust, this is definitely something positive and clearly works as having that creative freedom and weekly interactions allows you to express and explore new ideas. Working from home can make it difficult to manage the work-life balance, so we are pleased it helped you to evolve and find ways to keep on a schedule, which has resulted in stress-free evenings.

Seeing that you are incorporating the social aspect (lunch) into your routine so that the missing interactive elements are not forgotten is impressive. Thank you again for taking the time to comment, I believe your point about the future is valued and believe that hybrid working will be a new way forward as we still rely on physical interaction.

Rebecca Kemp says:

This is a really interesting read!

I think having a mix of working both in the office and at home will become the new normal in the future. You make a really intriguing point about how stress can impact levels of creativity and I wonder if the use of working both in the office and from home may decrease people’s stress levels which may encourage more creativity?

However, our society has a tendency to not learn from its history. Do you think there is a chance that once Covid restrictions are lifted, that businesses may quickly forget what we have learnt from working at home?

I really like your point about the positives of a virtual team and how it allows businesses to employ the most talented and experienced people regardless of their location. It’s great to see more diversity within teams which will ultimately help with creativity.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Thank you so much for your input Becca! I definitely agree that flexible working will help to relieve stress factors, as people have more freedom to work around their personal lives and responsibilities. So perhaps this is the answer to better creative freedom!

You make such an interesting point here, that is definitely something to think about as we move into the future of the industry. Will we fall back into old habits and forget the progress we’ve made, or will managers ensure to keep reminding their teams of improved approaches, fresh ideas, and new processes that have increased efficiency and productivity? Maybe this will be what sets the successful businesses aside from those that struggle to come out the other side of this pandemic.

I think if businesses utilise the positive changes to their full potential, such as diversity in global teams, whilst making a steady adjustment back to a new ‘normal’, they will give themselves the best chance of success!

Liam says:

I’ve preferred working from home as I feel I can be more productive at my own pace, however, I do feel like I’m missing the interaction with colleagues. I have felt a bit lost at times as WFH does make work feel less stimulating but I think a mix of work from home and the office would be more of an enjoyable set up going forward. I do hope in the future this is not the new normal but I do think there will be a lot less reason to return to shared space on full-time basis as the software available is only growing.

Staying creative in a virtual events world says:

Hi Liam, Thank you for responding to our blog and sharing your experience. I definitely agree that missing the interaction with colleagues is a big part of WFH. You make such an interesting point here about feeling less stimulated at home and I agree that with technical advancements and the pandemic bringing to be controlled mix of blend working is definitely looking possible.

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