Insights/ How a 30 minute walk improves workplace wellbeing

Author: Katy Johns

Picture this. Long hours, constant travel, high pressure over a sustained period of time… It’s easy to see why maintaining wellbeing and mental health awareness can often be overlooked by those working in the events industry.

At Powwow we’re a close team, with just over 20 employees. It goes without saying that having a solid wellbeing and mental health policy in place is vital in this day and age, but even more so considering the industry we operate in. From our perspective as a small business, it might not be as challenging to implement a programme compared to bigger companies. But whatever your business size, the principles remain the same.

What’s important to our sense of wellbeing is giving people the chance to speak up and talk if they have concerns, or knowing there is support available if they experience anxiety or just need a sounding board. We have an open-door policy, senior staff members are easily accessible and we work well as a team, sharing burdens and pull together when it matters.

We don’t think we are unique in this particular approach - many other agencies similar in size will have a ‘family feel’ where people can be honest and open with each other. But we feel very strongly that while you can have all the ‘right’ policies in place, you could still be missing the point. Ultimately, people need to feel not just that they can have a conversation, but that they are being listened to. We also think it’s important to highlight that wanting support should not be seen as negative - rather embrace this as a positive moment, a time when the senior team in a business can take time out to listen.

I was a member of the panel at a breakfast session on the “Future of Wellbeing in the Events Industry” during EventWellbeing Week last year, a fantastic event which focused on empathy, culture and self-care. This underlined our thinking regarding workplace wellbeing.

They say a change is as good as a rest and we think we’ve achieved both of these with a recently-introduced programme that has helped transform the way we manage appraisals and feedback. Everyone now has a development manager who they are encouraged to meet up with every month, for a half-hour, informal session. Employees can catch up over a short walk of around 30 minutes or have a chat over a coffee outside of the office. It has done wonders for helping us to gauge feedback and to identify any issues. It gives both sides the chance to discuss any concerns in an open dialogue format, and where they can seek instant feedback.

We want to encourage conversations to be held on a daily basis - we found in the past that people considered feedback or appraisals to be quite daunting. By encouraging our staff to talk openly on a regular basis, appraisals and feedback seem much more natural now than ever.

We are still in the early stages of this programme so time will tell but, so far, the feedback has been very positive and supportive. It is helping us to go in the right direction with regards to wellbeing and mental health, alongside other popular policies we have implemented such as flexible working. We’ve introduced these with trials to see how they work in practice and to ensure that everyone is committed and feels trusted and empowered. We know our team will go the extra mile when required and work longer hours - equally we need to offer the same respect and flexibility.

We are constantly reviewing and trying new things – from weekly fitness sessions and personal training to in-office massages and away days for the entire team. Everyone is different and what one person wants to do, others won’t so remaining open-minded and flexible is essential.

We’ve learnt that for any wellbeing policy to be a success - be it flexible working hours, encouraging staff to eat more fruit in the workplace or hosting team sessions, everyone has to be committed to making it work. You need guidelines and buy-in, regardless of how big or small you are as a business. And as long as people follow them, and are willing to try new things, you could be on to a winning formula.