The Big Cheese

Life in the time of COVID-19 with MCEC’s Elissa Duke

This week, we catch up with Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre’s senior manager of planning to find out how she’s been coping throughout the corona-crisis.

What are you reading?

Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny by Micheal Broers.

What are you watching?

Killing Eve.

What are you listening to?

The soundtracks from The Young Pope and The New Pope.

What are you cooking?

My partner is the cook in our house and, as the nights are starting to get cooler, we have been using our offset smoker to create some delicious American BBQ-inspired dishes.

How are you staying fit both physically and mentally?

After spending the first few weeks of working from home over-indulging, I decided I needed to bring some discipline back into my life. So, I wrote an exercise program for myself, which consists of a mix of circuit/strength training, bike and a couple of eight-kilometre walks.

Mentally, the adjustment to working from home has been a tougher challenge than I thought it would be, so I commit to 10 to 20 minutes of mindfulness each day – it makes the world of difference to your wellbeing!

I have also signed up to a number of free online courses.

What’s the one thing keeping you sane?

I’m actually coping quite okay, which I largely attribute to the fact that I am lucky enough to still be working.

Having said that, I do make sure I do as much exercise as I can at Yarra Bend in Melbourne – I absolutely love it. There are lots of varied walking and bike tracks along by the river. It’s only six kilometres from the CBD, but you feel like you have taken a mini-break to the country!

What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

I work for an amazing organisation that is known for its extensive employee engagement programs. I have seen this culture explode since the coronavirus hit, with the organisation offering a wide range of support and resources for employees.

What has been wonderful to see is the influence these actions have had. Employees are using their initiative and reaching out to each other, exchanging recipes, creating their own support groups, logging in and joining team catch-ups or Friday night virtual drinks.

It really highlights the great strength of our organisational culture – we are in this together and we are there for each other!

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

My cooking is not as bad as I thought, and I have a serious addiction to sugar!

What’s your advice for others in the travel industry on coping with the crisis?

I always see significant change as an opportunity to look for new possibilities. Working through challenges with a positive mindset keeps me focused on thinking creatively about what future opportunities may surface.

Use this time as an opportunity to focus on doing things that you really love, pick up some old hobbies or interests you haven’t had time to do in a while, or try something new.