How we support the mental health and wellbeing of our staff and why we ensure it’s always a priority

18 June 2021

There’s no getting away from the fact that for the sixth consecutive year, event planner has been voted the fifth most stressful job in the world! So, how can we not make the mental health and wellbeing of our staff a priority within our business? Our people are our business, and as part of a people-focused industry, we have a responsibility to ensure we look after our staff.

And that doesn’t just mean providing career opportunities, nice offices to work in, monetary rewards; it’s about really looking after our people and treating every single person as an individual in their own right, not an employee number on the payroll. Everyone is different and has different needs, and just as we adapt to our clients’ requirements, we ensure we adapt to the needs of our teams also. Our Head of Operational Excellence, Helen Capelin, shares the mental health initiatives we offer here at Ashfield Meetings & Events.

Trained Mental Health First Aiders

We have two trained and certified Mental Health First Aiders in our company and our personnel know who they are. They are displayed with the list of Fire Marshals and other First Aiders around the company notice boards.  These MHFAs are trusted with discretion and provide a great resource to our teams.

3-month check-ins

Our two Mental Health First Aiders carry out confidential 3-month check-ins after our new recruits have joined the business. These aren’t focused around mental health specifically, but it is an opportunity to see how they are doing in their roles and how they are feeling. At that point, we provide coaching and support if needed – signposting and guiding them around any issues they might have, or highlighting the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning and support or mentorship, whatever they might need.

The power of giving back

It has been well documented that volunteering – taking part in a meaningful activity that has a positive impact on people’s lives – can help someone’s mental health and wellbeing by providing a sense of purpose and achievement. We introduced a Volunteering Day where our team members are able to dedicate a day away from work to contribute to a charity or cause they’re passionate about. Many of our team members have used their volunteering day and we’ve heard some truly inspirational stories – from supporting local sports teams to helping schools in Ethiopia.

Curry and chaat

One particularly successful initiative we ran recently was our ‘Curry and chaat’. This was where key members of our team who are passionate about both cooking and the power of talking and sharing over food, cooked some Indian specialities and everyone was encouraged to leave their desk to join their colleagues for a ‘curry and chaat.’ People who didn’t necessarily work together, sat together, built relationships and trust, and opened up about their feelings and experiences. We even encouraged our remote workers to step away from their home offices for a break, highlighting the importance of doing something different for a short time. We received very positive feedback from our team members and many have expressed the desire to hold this initiative again.

Getting physical

We recognise that regular exercise has an enormously positive impact on mental as well as physical health, and we have a we have a weekly football team who play together and also a weekly running club – who believe it or not go out in all weathers – brave souls!

Aaaand relax….

At certain times of the year we bring in an outside masseuse to provide chair massages, at the company’s expense for those that want it and have done similar with yoga classes.

In addition, we also have an employee forum, enabling us to discuss issues that might be affecting our teams’ experiences at work, and our social committee focuses on fun activities outside the office to help foster friendships and connections.

Our staff members also have access to expertise from an external company that offers life coaching and runs discreet counselling services – for issues around anything from finances to stress management.

Like a lot of industries, we recognise that advancements in communication technology have inevitably led to work-life balance challenges. Our business is made up of talented, passionate, dedicated individuals who consistently go ‘over and above’ for our clients and consider their roles a lifestyle rather than just a job. Mobiles, broadband and collaboration platforms have enabled us to provide exceptional, round the clock services for our clients, but it’s also vital that we promote a workplace culture that encourages and highlights the benefits of ‘switching off.’

In 2020 we will be introducing mental health training which will be delivered by our Mental Health First Aiders, and following initial roll out to our Senior Leadership Team, it will be mandatory for all our line managers.  This will enable them to support their team members by identifying any differences in attitude or behaviour, and recognising the kind of help and advice they might need. In addition, we will also be asking our partners and suppliers how they are taking action on mental health within their own businesses. It’s important to us that the companies we work with share our values and attitudes around the mental wellbeing of their teams.

Our industry, and modern-day culture for that matter, is waking up to the importance of mental health and wellbeing. We’re talking about it a lot more which is a positive step forward. The challenge in any workplace will be managing expectations – how to deliver the same level of service without burning out those delivering it by being on call 24/7.  In reality switching off allows us to have the time to think creatively, strategically, effectively.

In the future, I’d like to see more recognition to the fact that we all have mental health – most of the time it may be good, but it can also be challenged at different times in our lives, and people who might be experiencing difficult periods should not be negatively judged. As employers within a notoriously stressful industry, there’s a lot we can do ensure our team members feel valued and supported. Providing simple initiatives that have a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing will not only be beneficial to the individual, but also to our business and ultimately clients as we retain a happy and dedicated workforce.

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