Sarah Mayo, co-founder of POINT3 Wellbeing, on keeping the industry healthy, happy and thriving.
The exhibitions industry is no doubt a special one; bringing people together whether in a work or lifestyle capacity.
The live environment offers a truly unique opportunity for people to meet, learn and be inspired as well as build lasting relationships. The same is of course true at the industry’s own events – when the great and the good come out to celebrate each other’s successes and be inspired by conversations and serendipitous meetings with others. These events not only offer an opportunity to reward people after the hard work and stresses of organising events, it’s an opportunity to relax and unwind over a glass or two of wine.
At a recent industry-networking do – this very subject came up in the context of wellbeing and balance. As many will know and relate to, the events industry is consistently ranked (in Career Cast’s annual US jobs rated report) as the fifth most stressful job behind fire fighters, police officers, military services and airline pilots, with strict and regular deadlines cited as the major contributing factor. Not to mention the pressures of working long hours and the unpredictable nature of events – it can be a highly stressful environment. And not unique to this industry, the elusive thing of work-life balance is getting harder and harder to achieve when you consider that we take the office with us everywhere we go – always contactable, always connected – to the office, and all the other noise that comes through our devices.
So how do we equip our people to cope better with the inevitable stresses of working within the exhibitions industry, coupled with the stresses of life as we know it these days? While there are many things we can’t control, what we can control and take personal responsibility for is our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of our people.
But what does wellbeing actually mean? At POINT3 Wellbeing we define it as ‘a state of flow when you’re happy, healthy and thriving, and able to cope with what life throws at you’. Wellbeing is a very personal thing, but how many of us can honestly say that we’re more often than not in this state? We all have our own needs and ways to help promote our own wellbeing, but do we actually spend enough time acknowledging what they are, before then making sure we are prioritising them in our lives?
The statistics around mental health in the UK workplace are alarming. The government’s 2017 ‘Thriving at Work’ report highlights that 300,000 people a year are leaving their jobs as a result of a mental health problem, and the cost of this to the economy and business is a staggering £74bn and £99bn per year. A total of 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17.
The events industry has an influential role to play in helping combat the mental health crisis in the UK – for its own people, but also for the people we come into contact with through the exhibitions and conferences we organise. We all know the power of events as a medium, and there’s as much a need to raise awareness of mental health – which is still not on the agenda of many – as it is to provide some solutions to help manage it better.
The benefits and supporting research around some of the more recognised ways of managing wellbeing are compelling. Exercise, for example, is known to boost performance and productivity. The British Heart Foundation ‘Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour Report 2017’ states that people are 33 per cent more motivated as a result of exercise, and 79 per cent have improved mental concentration and performance.
It is therefore in the interest of businesses to support their employees better by giving them the tools, and permission, to focus on their own personal wellbeing. It’s as much about taking responsibility for our own wellbeing, as it is for our colleagues and our teams. And organisations should build this into the culture of their business, if they want to ensure that their employees are “happy, healthy and thriving” or “engaged, focused and productive”.
So, if as we believe, events are one of the best ways to educate and inspire people, then let’s use our own events to lead by example and give our audiences the permission to support their wellbeing needs. Yes, the social/networking aspect of events will always have its place, but there are many other ways to promote wellbeing at events – through the food we serve, mindfulness sessions, morning boot camps or mid-morning wellbeing workshops.
As individuals and businesses we will then be better equipped to reap the rewards of being happier, healthier and thriving, and able to cope with all that life in the events industry fast lane throws at us.