By Jacklyn Pascale, Senior Marketing Manager
Usually at this time of year, I’d be in the process of securing a venue for our company Christmas party. I’m sure you all know where I’m going with this, because we’ve all experienced the uncertainty of our current climate and the seemingly impossible task of planning for the future, when none of us know what that future holds. In the grand scheme of things, an office Christmas party might seem like an insignificant event to have to reschedule, especially right now when there’s so much uncertainty in our lives — like when and how schools will reopen or how to maintain safe working conditions in our industry. We’ve all had to endure some type of change. Whether it’s working from home, wearing a mask, or keeping our distance from each other. But life goes on and, in our industry, thankfully so has our work. That’s why I believe, now more than ever, we need to find ways to keep celebrating major milestones. Our owners worked hard to develop projects from the initial vision to a groundbreaking. Our project teams and trade partners have done an amazing job balancing progress with new, expanded safety measures to keep projects on schedule. Communities deserve the chance to celebrate new developments. These events won’t and can’t look the same as they always have, but with planning and creative solutions, they can still be a chance for everyone involved to commemorate the moment and the job well done. Based on my experience adapting plans for events over the past few months, here’s a few suggestions on ways to celebrate milestones in the current COVID climate.
- Go Virtual
I think most of us have gotten used to holding meetings virtually. Web-based conferencing tools have made staying connected and collaborating with team members easy as we all stay socially distanced or work remotely. For an event where a host would typically give a speech to a crowd thanking everyone for their support or hard work, consider a virtual meeting invite. You won’t have the food, fun, or photo-ops, but you will still be able to thank shareholders and supporters and involve them in the moment. For bigger events, like a topping out or groundbreaking, social media can be a great tool. Our Texas division recently helped our client hold an entire topping out ceremony through a Facebook live event. The project is a new rural hospital that is an exciting and much anticipated addition to the surrounding community. The groundbreaking last year was a big event with crowds of community supporters, which obviously isn’t something we could recreate right now. Our client was able to keep the community involved in the exciting milestone by holding a small topping out ceremony on site and letting everyone watch online as the last beam was raised into place.
- Curbside Celebrations
Curbside pick-ups have been a great way for people to support their favorite restaurants while keeping themselves and their families safe. We’ve had a lot of success taking a similar approach with our on-site celebrations. Topping out ceremonies are very important to us because it’s a celebration of our field teams and trade partners and the work they’ve done to reach the half-way point on a project. Ignoring that milestone would be ignoring their efforts and dedication to the project. Typically, we hold big luncheons with long tables and raffle prizes. When our Lakeview Terrace project topped out in May, we decided to cater a to-go lunch where our superintendents set designated pick-up times for each team member. The event gave us the chance to say, “thank you for being a part of this project” to everyone involved, while keeping safety a priority. The event was so successful, we actually have several similar “grab and go” style topping out lunches planned in the weeks ahead at job sites across the country.
- Scale Down
Of course, sometimes the best and simplest solution is to scale down the celebration. That’s what our team did for the groundbreaking of Nashville State’s new campus in Madison, TN. In different circumstances, an exciting milestone like a new campus addition would mean a big event with food, local media, and lots of people. Instead, we invited just the key stakeholders involved in the project to stop by (with their masks on) for a picture to commemorate the occasion. I think its important for everyone in our industry to remember that even if we’re forced to scale down public celebrations, the milestones on our projects are still exciting steps towards completing buildings that will positively impact our communities — and that’s what’s important.
- The Great Outdoors
Nothing can take the place of face-to-face interaction. So, when you’ve hit your limit of virtual meetings and online celebrations, head outside! The one event that I’ve seen remain relatively constant during the pandemic is golf. From charity fundraisers to industry organization events, the game of golf can easily be adapted to meet social distancing guidelines. I’ve seen events restrict golf carts to one person, encourage participants to walk the course, and stagger tee times to ensure people can stay distant. Now might be a good time to search for local charity golf tournaments, a way for you to break away from your screen and give back to your community at the same time. Another outdoor idea — take the celebration to people, don’t have them come to you. We typically hold several trade partner appreciation events throughout the year. This summer, instead of bringing in food trucks and asking trade partners to come stand in line, we collaborated with a local ice cream vendor and delivered individually wrapped treats to our trade partners on site. Everyone was able to stay outdoors, a safe distance from each other, while still taking a much-deserved break.
I think we’ve all done a great job adapting to and creating a new normal. Celebrating milestones is a tradition in our industry that we shouldn’t abandon during these uncertain times. On the contrary, I think we all need to take every chance to celebrate, give thanks, and acknowledge hard work. If you’ve considered canceling a milestone celebration or even something small, like an office party, I’d encourage you think outside the box and find a way to commemorate the occasion in a different way.