Exhibition News October 2017 - Page 33

feature the stress test I n 2014, while Clare Ruby was working as director of operations for one of the largest trade shows in Europe, she was signed off with stress for four weeks. Now, her full service events agency RubyBlosse has released the results of a survey it carried out among colleagues and clients in the UK events industry, intended to see if anecdotal evidence about stress in the industry would be backed up by the results. “We wanted to focus on women, as there are extra factors that affect women in the workplace,” she explains. “Various research studies show that women still have the majority of responsibility in domestic situations.” The full results of the study, which surveyed 45 people (26 women and one man replied), is available on the RubyBlosse website. When asked the question, “What is the tipping point that makes a pressured situation into a stressful one?” respondents cited factors such as deadlines, decision- making, communication and control. “The overall results lead to the general conclusion that stress is very prevalent in the UK events industry amongst women,” Ruby tells EN. “The general view is that people still do not feel able to speak openly about this issue. The results also conclude that there is a very mixed response by both organisations and informal networks to this issue. Practical help is patchy to say the least.” Of the 27 respondents, only three said they had received any practical support on returning to work after time off due to stress. One, when asked how comfortable they would be raising the issue of stress with colleagues, said: “Sadly, not at all. For me it would feel like I’ve personally failed and can’t cope with “normal” work pressures”. As a result of the survey, RubyBlosse has published the following ten steps that employers can take to support employees who might be experiencing work-related stress. Ruby emphasises that these are by no means a silver bullet to the issue, and are just suggestions to encourage debate and action. There’s an elephant in the room, and our industry needs to address it 1. Talk about it openly Stress is still a taboo subject for many and there is the fear that admitting to stress will affect promotional opportunities or perception of ability to carry out the role. It needs to be spoken about openly. Experiencing stress is not a weakness, and nothing to be ashamed of. 2. Provide a safe, confidential forum for discussing stress The culture and structure of an organisation needs to facilitate discussion, albeit publicly or privately. Consider providing regular forums or online community portals where employees could share their concerns. 3. Educate everyone to recognise the triggers and symptoms of stress Perhaps the instances of stress-related mental and physical illnesses could be averted if there was more awareness of the triggers and symptoms. Training and education helps. 4. Be a champion of flexible working arrangements Outside peak times organisations can promote flexible working conditions such as working from home, flexible hours, job sharing, part-time working and Time Off In Lieu. 5. Ensure sufficient resources for events If the wellbeing of your workforce is really a priority then the appropriate resources will be allocated to events. Teams are still left short-staffed, leading to pressures on decision-making, excessive working hours and unnecessary duress. 33 7. Don’t ignore it As a manager, you have a responsibility to address someone’s return to work from stress in a measured and considered way. Give the person an opportunity to discuss the situation with you, or an independent colleague, or provide external support. 8. Provide access to a mentor or coach Arrange access to a pool of coaches or mentors that people can reach out to. The sign-off process should be simple and short so people can access at short notice. 9. Consider the impact of shorter venue tenancies on event teams It’s always a financial consideration when booking a venue, but consider the long- term financial cost to your business if the impact of this means staff or event partners experience the effects of stress as a result. 10. Support national initiatives on wellness and mental-health wellbeing There’s a tonne of great initiatives out there, such as Mental Health Awareness Week and the newly launched event industry’s EventWell week. Support them. Make sure your teams know you support them. Organise fundraising initiatives around these campaigns. EN 6. Introduce wellbeing initiatives Promoting healthy minds and bodies will help reduce all-round stress. To see the full results of the survey, go to rubyblosse.com exhibitionnews.co.uk | October 2017