The events industry is renowned for its hectic, demanding pace and stress levels, and this can have an impact on our hard-working staff and office environment. With this in mind, our Future Focus group was tasked with improving the work-life mentality at Ashfield Meetings & Events.

Future Focus is a programme which exposes individuals (such as myself) to different areas of the business in order to give us a broader scope of experience to develop skills and prepare us for the next stage of our careers. This project was a great opportunity for us to challenge ourselves, use some of the skills we had learnt over the past year, and take on roles outside of our normal remit.

We began by using the SPARK THINKING methodology; explore, refine and deliver. We soon realised that mentality was the key word in our brief. We knew that we couldn’t guarantee a better work-life balance, but we could certainly encourage others to take control of their own happiness. We the explored existing initiatives, looking at what our clients and other companies were doing. Our aim was to challenge the current mind-set of our colleagues and provide them with the tools they need to create their own ideal working environment.

Before we could refine our project, we needed to ascertain where we currently stood on the subject. During our annual supplier event (The Lab) last August we conducted research into what our staff needed to improve their work-life mentality. We checked what people were currently doing and asked if people were aware of, or took advantage of, the benefits already available, such as childcare vouchers, a pension scheme or subsidised eye-tests.

Encouraging a happy working environment

It was evident that employees were hungry to address their work-life mentality, with 74% telling us that a cup of tea and treats helped them through a busy, stressful day. At this stage, we were then able to design and deliver a tailored project. First, we participated in a Macmillan Coffee Morning to encourage everyone to take a break and eat cake, something we knew from our research that they enjoyed. We also did background research into the effect that giving has on your mentality; not only would people feel good about getting away from their desk, they would also feel good about giving to charity.

After, we developed a marketing campaign comprised of a series of posters and Yammer posts to promote the pre-existing benefits of working for Ashfield Meetings & Events. We promoted internal and external training to help manage workloads and improve productivity and provided walking routes around the local area to encourage people to step away from their desk. We even had a visit from several hamsters, a chinchilla and some rabbits (accompanied by our local Pets At Home store staff); studies have shown that petting animals promotes the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone related to stress and anxiety relief. It seemed the perfect excuse to cuddle cute creatures for an hour or two.

Our final initiative was to install a pop-up library, which encouraged a little hygge through soft furnishings and lighting. The pop-up library gave us a final chance to showcase other ways that we could be productive and we screened TED Talks, shared literature about productivity and even provided different scents each day (research shows that your sense of smell can powerfully affect your mood, mind-set and productivity).

So, what does this mean for our business now? During the project one element that was crucial to us was future-proofing. How could we keep the momentum going and how could we continue to encourage a healthy work-life mentality once our project was over?

We are pleased to say that due to the huge success of our coffee morning we will now be holding these monthly, hosted by a different business unit each time. During the project we also presented to each management level throughout the business and highlighted the importance of actionable change. We wanted to make sure our management teams were on board and seen to be making steps to change their work-life mentality so their colleagues would feel empowered to do the same.

I really hope that our project – and in fact this article – has encouraged my colleagues (and you) to be inspired and maybe even re-evaluate your work-life mentality. Now log off and go home!

Encouraging a happy working environment