Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

Visit Omaha Goes Remote to Support Omaha's Recovery

Dec 01, 2021 12:24PM ● By Jeff Lacey
staff of visit Omaha stands on city street

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

 Working from home has become the new normal for many, and the change has not been gradual. Many companies transitioned from having no remote staff, to
having 100% of their staff working remotely, some in a matter of weeks or days. While this stunning shift in labor dynamics is new territory for the global economy, some companies have embraced it as an opportunity.

Visit Omaha is one such company. Their mission is to promote and develop the Omaha metro area as a dynamic destination in order to stimulate economic growth. In August 2020, they announced their Rent for Recovery initiative: the plan was to give up their current office space for the next 12-24 months in order to “book meeting rooms at different hotels, attractions, and restaurants to host the organization’s staff meetings in an effort to support the recovery process.” This meant they would mostly be working remotely. When they did have in-person meetings, they would hold them at stakeholder’s locations. Currently, the 18-person staff only meets in person once a week, at a different client venue each time.  

In other words, they’ve made the entire city of Omaha their office.

Deb Ward, the executive director, said the change was well met by stakeholders. “When we sent out the request to all the venues and hotels to reserve spaces, a lot of them wanted to give them to us for free,” Ward said. “We had to explain that we are doing this to help you. Give us the cost of the venue, and we’ll gladly support you.” 

One of the most meaningful benefits has been the chance to see the world from their stakeholders’ perspectives. Ward explaied, “It’s really helped, after a pandemic year, being able to rebuild personal relationships. We had a meeting at The Grove Juicery on 10th and Farnam, for example. Not only did we reconnect with that business, we learned that the pilots and flight attendants go there to get their drinks between flights. Unless you have a personal conversation, you don’t get to know those kinds of details.” 

Amy Rummel, the director of marketing and public relations for Joslyn Art Museum, said her first thought when the initiative was announced was, “What an ingenious plan.” Rummel said, “We were grateful for that opportunity. They had their meeting and then invited me to share news and updates about Joslyn. The pandemic and all of the associated challenges that it has brought created a lot of pauses in our plans, and interruptions in our usual interactions, and that one meeting did so much to bridge those gaps.”

Ward explained that most of the growing pains happened on a personal level. She said, “The first thought was ‘oh good, we get to work from home’...and then it became, ‘oh my God, I can’t get away from home. I’m always there.’” While there was an adjustment period, Ward said that working from home offers lots of wellness benefits. “If you are done with your meeting at 9 [a.m.], and you’re working from home, it is nice to have that kind of mental break. Putting in that load of laundry after your meeting doesn’t take away from
your productivity.”

Visit Omaha’s permanent office model isn’t decided. Ward said they’ve learned that you do need an office space for collaboration and camaraderie. 

Forbes reported that, as of January 2021, 83% of businesses surveyed said the change from traditional office work to remote work had been successful. 

Visit Omaha has found success in having the entire city as their office.

Go to visitomaha.com for more information.

This article originally appeared in the November/December  issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Photo by Bill Sitzmann