Sarah Halfpenny Events

Wellbeing for Event Professionals

by Sarah Halfpenny

There has been a lot of commentary recently, on the topic of wellness for event professionals. I have to admit, that in my 4 years of writing event blogs, ‘wellness’; has never been included in my pipeline of topics. Why? Probably because it wasn’t an obvious issue within my business. Having reflected upon my 20 years within the events industry, it occurred to me that I could probably talk all day on the topic. So, in today’s blog, I share some tips to help others look after their mental and physical health during times of stress, pre, during and post event!

The planning and delivery of events, command varying levels of ‘peak’ activity. During such times, event staff often just focus on getting the job done, rather than ensuring their health and wellbeing is protected.

Indeed, events by their very nature demand irregular hours and working patterns. Early mornings, late nights, long days and multi day events, mean you’re time on-site can be substantial. Personally, my longest event day was from 5.00am in the morning until Midnight, with little more than a coffee and a limp looking sandwich for fuel! This will no doubt resonate with fellow event professionals. Event days are exhausting. But, we love the buzz that a live event gives us, so we continue to experience these varying levels of peak activity and performance.

My point is that, in order to have a sustainable career in event management or the hospitality sector, you cannot ignore your physical or mental health. Below are a few tried and tested ways to manage help you manage this.

Allocate tasks
At the start of any event, it is essential to outline clear roles and responsibilities. This will ensure that workload is split evenly across the project team, avoids duplication of effort and ensures everyone feels clear and able to manage.

Get the right people to do the right tasks
If you asked me to build a flat pack wardrobe, I would feel anxious, worried and stressed. It is not in my skill set, it’s not what I am experienced in doing. Ok, so this is a silly example, but it does highlight the need to really match the right person with the right tasks. One way to induce stress is by giving someone a number of tasks to do, that they have never done before. This leads to increased anxiety, fear of failure and worry about making a mistake. If this situation is unavoidable, then ensure they are fully supported by someone who can give them both time and guidance.

Regular team meetings
Especially during busy periods, which is most of the time, it is so easy to ‘bump’ the internal ‘catch up’! Do this at your peril. From experience, weekly, even daily updates will ensure your team feels in control and on top of workload. It will also provide the opportunity for people to ask for help, support, advice and guidance.
When I manage a team, I often have regular meetings over breakfast, sit outside in the garden, or ‘walk and talk’ with colleagues as a way to improve the meeting environment and to get them away from their desks!

Communicate via What’sApp!
What’s app is such a great tool to communicate with your project team. I especially use this for the build-up and during the event itself. It means everyone is aware of what’s going on, people are able to ask for help, respond quickly and motive each other. From experience, this avoids the ‘I didn’t know that’, ‘I thought you were doing that’, ‘I was all on my own with a que of delegates’ type comments, which cause feelings of stress, annoyance and effect motivation.

The staff rota!
I am going to be controversial here, but an on-site staff rota to manage staff breaks does not work. In theory, a pre-planned schedule of event staff breaks seems sensible. It certainly suggests you are mindful that your on-site staff require some ‘chill time’ especially for long events. In practice though, your event staff are reacting to delegate requests, dealing with speakers, sponsors and the venue alike. Time just goes and before you know it, its 15.00pm and your schedule is null and void!

As mentioned above, WhatsApp provides a perfect vehicle to communicate and look after staff on-site. All members of the group are free to request when they need a break. The team can ensure event roles are covered and they can all send reminders. This one team approach puts your staff in control and responsible for their own and each other’s well-being.

Staff bolt hole!
If the venue allows, a designated staff room provides a safe haven for those staff to get away from delegates and stakeholders. Events can be pressured, so providing this space will help people rest and recharge.

Rest days
Rest days are essential to allow you, or your team to recharge. Often taken post event, I would also advocate some rest time before big / multi day events or simply when people need it. I understand that it’s not often practical to be away from the office on the days leading up to a big event, however a 15.00pm departure or mid-morning arrival will keep your team functioning, motivated and appreciated.

Flexible working is proven to reduce stress and reduce the number of sick days taken. Giving staff some flexibility to work from home builds trust, allows staff to rest and work in a calm uninterrupted environment.

Get a Mentor
Mentors can provide immense advice, guidance and support. Someone who can really help you navigate any stress or anxiety’s you have. If your feeling overworked and you are fearing burn out, tap into someone who has been there, who understands and who can provide you practical solutions. Perhaps its help with time management, perhaps its building your confidence to better communicate with colleagues. Whatever it is, talking to someone external can really support your mental health and wellbeing.

There are so many other things I could mention. Eating well, getting exercise, dressing appropriately for an event to ensure your conformable. To many to mention in this already very long blog! But I hope I have reminded you that looking after yourself and your team is crucial to the successful delivery of your events and it should be something to be nurtured and supported.