Wellness in the events industry has been an issue for many of us in the industry for years, yet we are only now just starting to talk about it.  In this blog our MD, Rob Eveleigh, explores some of the reasons why our health and wellbeing is suffering, and some of the steps we can take to mitigate the long-term damage.

Issues around wellness in the events industry?

Many of us in the events industry struggle with wellness, whether that be mentally, or physically, or both.  This is across the industry, whether buyer, intermediary or supplier.

In some ways we are our own worst enemies.  Most of us operate under a “can do” culture where we’re inclined to say yes as much as we can to our clients’ requests….no matter how bizarre they might be.  Add this to our often over-inflated sense of responsibility for “getting it right”, the burden on us can often feel intolerable.  There is no such thing as a “perfect” event, so we should accept that now, rather than fight a battle we will never win.

Of course a “can-do” culture can, and must be, applauded.  We work in a service-based industry and our ability to deliver to a high standard is one of the few things can set us apart from our competitors.  However, it’s also an incredibly difficult attribute to quantify.

We often hear talk of people operating at “110 %”, which of course is literally impossible to deliver.  Mathematically speaking, if you’re operating at 110% of yourself you’d need to borrow 10% of someone else in order to achieve it.  Of course, it’s utter non-sense and a ridiculous modern soundbite that doesn’t really mean anything, not to mention very messy!!!  It does however raise a serious point.  No machine is designed to operate at 100% of capacity all of the time, even 90% is a push.  If you drove a car at full-throttle all the time it would soon start to malfunction; the same theory can be applied to the human body.

The “on/off” mode

In our industry we tend to work in alternating patterns of physical stress, usually at one extreme or the other.  We’re either “onsite”, where we’re working long hours and on our feet most of the time, or we’re in the office in a mostly sedentary role.  Sometimes it can feel like switching an on/off button regularly, without ever reaching the happy medium.  The type of events that we do at Brightelm mean that, generally, we have “off” periods of at least a month between events, but some members of our industry, particularly our freelancers, are “on” all the time.  How is this sustainable?

The “on/off” mode also applies to subsistence and exercise.  In “off” mode we hopefully will have regular exercise, sleep and eat regular meals. In “on” mode we suffer from lack of sleep (sometimes up to a week at a time), become dehydrated, walk lots, and consume a ridiculous amount of sugar (onsite calories don’t count, right?), carbohydrates and caffeine.  By the way I’m not a carb-basher by any stretch of the imagination, but staff food onsite does tend air on the starchy side.

That’s not to say that the office environment is any safer from a health perspective.  In agencies I used to work in we would have 2-3 presentations a week from suppliers most of whom would bring in sweet snacks.  In one place I worked in the cocktails and beer would regularly be cracked open at 4pm on a Friday, and I know that in more than one office there was a culture of recreational drug use.

The problematic agency business model?

Some of these problems stem from the agency business model, which historically tries to extract as many hours out of its work force as possible.  For too long agencies have sold their services too cheaply, with a knock-on effect of not having enough resource available to effectively deliver projects.  Often corporate procurement is blamed, but the only ones accountable for our pricing, are ourselves.

Agency resourcing is a massive jigsaw puzzle, and there’s no easy answer, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been onsite for one event, to come back to a massive backlog of work for other projects.  I now tell my team that we need to save ourselves for onsite work, which is hard and long, and that we should be fresh and excited for when we’re doing what we do best, delivering live events for our clients.

What are the solutions?

Firstly, we must make sure we are charging appropriate fees for our work.  Whether we work in-house and sell tickets to events, or we charge fees to our clients for our work, we must ensure we do not undervalue ourselves.

Proper pricing allows for good resourcing.  No-one should ever be struggling to complete their workload and I believe that under-resourcing is one of the biggest causes of stress and anxiety in our industry.

We also need to ensure that we keep an eye on each other.  We often talk about teamwork, but as well as working collaboratively we need to ensure that each of our colleagues are managing well.  Can you spot the member of your team that’s first to arrive and last to leave, or is sending emails at 11pm at night?  They need help!  Reach out to them.

Focus on making positive changes to the workplace.  Limit hours.  Ban sugary treats from suppliers.  Create daily activity sessions, or even just ring a bell every 2 hours to ensure everyone stands up and shakes down.

We are all replaceable

And finally, we need to be honest with ourselves and take accountability for our own wellbeing.  We are all replaceable.  I know that might upset some of you, but it’s true.  If we are struggling with workload we need to ask for help.  Asking for help is a positive thing, believe me.

To find out more

Brightelm are running a webinar at the end of January on this very topic with guest speakers including Adam Baggs from Adam Baggs Hypnotherapy and a representative from mental health charity Bristol Mind. Book for free via this link.

Eventwell is the event industry charity for wellness.  Their website has quite a few helpful resources on wellness.