At what seemed like the flip of a switch, Americans went from commuting road warriors to a pajama-clad nation of predominantly stay-at-home workers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how one association is giving its members a chance to shine while highlighting the solidarity of the experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered many landscapes, including how—and where—Americans work. A large portion of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals’ 10,000 members already work from home, so, mindful of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, APMP thought it was time to lighten the mood a bit after weeks of dire, stressful news.
They’re doing that with the “Show Us Your Virtual Office Contest.” APMP CEO Rick Harris said it’s a good way to both showcase their members and help people who might be struggling with the transition to a work-at-home environment.
APMP members respond to government and commercial requests for proposals. They are the people, Harris said, “who write the bids that win new business.” It is an often high-pressure job that does not come with a great deal of recognition. Harris said the contest “lets us take a pause and reflect back on the member and make a star out of them.”
The contest is open to anyone, member or not, and APMP has received hundreds of entries so far. They are accepting submissions until Friday, May 1, and winners will be announced May 18. Thanks to a sponsor, APMP will award a $500 first prize and $250 second and third prizes. Entries will be judged on a variety of criteria, including appearance and creativity, with bonus points for entrants who include themselves in the photo they submit of their virtual workspace.
APMP is receiving a wide variety of entries, some humorous, some serious, and often including pets—lots of pets. Harris said the contest entries reveal that people are proud of the home offices they have constructed during this unprecedented time in history.
“We’re seeing the inside of everyone’s home, and the first thing we do is look around and see what décor they have and what their office set-up is. It’s a little like peeking behind the curtain to see how it’s done.” Some people have moved their offices outside, especially in warmer climates.
In the longer term, the shared experience of remote work may prompt some new thinking among employers, Harris said. “We think a lot of companies are going to find the productivity of their employees has risen, and they might not need to be chained to the office environment they’ve had for decades and decades.”
APMP has been a virtual association for 32 years. Harris is the only employee with an office in downtown Washington, DC, and the rest of the team works remotely. “We didn’t miss a beat in this transition, and we thought we’d share the experience so once you design your home office, you won’t miss one either,” he said.
Harris noted that people appear to be putting a lot of time and care into setting up their virtual offices because they don’t know how long they’ll be working there. “We’re tapping into the human spirit,” he said. “This is the way it is right now, so let’s make the best of it.”