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EventWell blows the lid off the secrecy surrounding mental illness

Now in its third campaigning year, EventWell blows the lid off the secrecy surrounding mental illness.

Director of EventWell Helen Moon, kickstarted the first session of Event Wellbeing Week #EventWell19, on September 16 by saying: “Having a mental illness does not make you weak or lazy.”

So many of us hide feelings of depression for fear of being seen as “less than”, or not being able to cope. After all, who would want to promote someone who wants nothing more than to crawl under their duvet and stay there for a couple of days?

The shame and stigma of mental illness must be addressed in the events industry, and the Future of Wellbeing EventWell panel at Bottletop in London’s Regent Street, stressed the need for change.

Mark Maher, sales and marketing director at Boulevard Events said: “We need to create a culture of care. Ask someone how their weekend was – or use tactics that work in your company. It’s important that your boss knows your contribution to the workplace.”

He added that it was important to develop coping mechanisms which gives people the ability to look after themselves.

Maher talked about the initiatives at his company, such as offering free, nutritious lunches for all employees.

Katherine Bowden, global account director at Banks Sadler and trustee of The Matt Palmer Trust, talked about the reality of work in the events industry. “If you work for a global agency, there are different time zones. It’s not a 9 – 5 job. But it’s important to stand firm with clients – to say ‘I’m sorry we can’t deliver, it would be detrimental to our team.’”

She added: “There are explosive highs and crashing lows. We need to make sure people are well prepped – to know what staff are getting into.”

Matt Palmer, a friend of Bowden’s who worked in the events industry, took his own life six years ago. The Matt Palmer Trust was set up as a UK registered charity to support mental well-being and raise awareness of depression.

Katy Johns, director at Powwow Events, suggested initiatives taken up by her agency which included fruit bowls, a weekly bar, birthdays off, bringing your dog to work, as well as a Surprise and Delight, which acknowledges employees’ efforts and achievements.

“We nurture a positive culture such as flexible working for everyone. We talk to people about their development in the company,” she added.

Johns acknowledged that the events industry is “driven by clients and it’s a very competitive world, with very short deadlines.” However, the events director has noticed that younger people coming into the industry expect employers to look after their mental health, which is “an expectation now, not a benefit. They will ask questions such as ‘Is my wellbeing considered?’”

EventWell offers support and advice

Looking to the future of wellbeing in the events industry, Johns was concerned that there would be less personal and human interaction, which she thought would be the “challenge of the future… communication is all via email or text.”

The missing link is reaching out to the agencies who are not so concerned about caring for their staff’s mental wellbeing but focused on getting the job done. The panel felt that these types of agencies are a dying breed.

There are so many agencies in the UK that event professionals can shop around, network and get feedback from friends in the industry to work for one that appeals to their work/life balance.

Clients may hold the key to improving wellbeing and mental health in the future. Johns says more and more clients are asking for detailed information in their RFIs (request for information), such as the work culture and practice of the event agency. This makes sense, as the client wants to be sure that the event manager is going to be able to cope with the pressure of putting on an important event.

The agencies that will survive, says Johns, are those that “respect and listen to their employees, where people feel able to speak up and feel supported.”