An Interview with Laura Capell-Abra, No More Ifs Or Buts…

This month Twickenham Stadium's conference and events arm announced a partnership with Stress Matters, as part of the businesses commitment to support wellbeing both within the organisation, but also amongst the thousands of people that pass through the stadium every year.

Stress Matters is an events industry specific initiative, built around an understanding of the unique pressures felt by event professionals. Amongst an industry that is really finding its voice around wellbeing, Stress Matters is one of a small number of businesses that turn comment to action, and work across businesses be they in house event organisers, agencies and or within businesses across the supply chain.

To learn more about Stress Matters, and Twickenham's involvement in it, we sat down with the organisation's Founder and CEO, Laura Capell-Abra, so, how did she end up so involved in industry wellness?

"Like many people who work in wellbeing, I guess I fell into it! I left the event agency world to start a coaching and development company called No More Ifs Or Buts, and as I worked with more and more individuals and teams about their career progression, I realised how much impact stress was having on these people. It was from this side I got into the wider wellness side I think, I saw so much negative impact from stress on event teams that I felt compelled to help and it all escalated from there."

Laura is one of a number of people and organisations that is taking more interest in wellness within the events industry, so what is behind the increased popularity of the subject?

"As an industry, we're starting to address wellness, but I think we've got far more to do yet. I think there has been a huge shift in society generally and with more conversations in the public arena about wellness and mental health, plus schemes such as Stress Matters and EventWell which are aimed at the events industry, it's become a more acceptable topic for discussion."

"What I'm keen to see though, is it going from lots of people talking, to employers taking it seriously and action being taken. We've seen a positive shift in the last 12 months but it needs to go so much further than that."

So, why are event professionals more likely to suffer from anxiety than other professionals?

"I don't think we are more likely to get stressed because of the jobs we do, but the culture we've created. The very nature of an event means that we are always working to deadlines and therefore there is less opportunity to make mistakes."

"However, we have a lot of experience in this industry, and whilst you can't predict everything that's going to happen (that's what makes it fun right!) more experienced people tend to be more confident that they will find a solution to any problems that may arise. Where we are bad, is using a sink or swim approach to training those entering the industry, and that's where the stress manifests."

"Equally, there are few other industries that do so little training to ready people in their roles. I think this is one of the big compounding factors, we know from the Stress Matters research that was conducted in 2017, that 45% of respondents had not had any training and were expected to learn on the job and their stress levels were 33% higher than those that had had some or a large amount of training."

So where does Stress Matters fit in?

"Stress Matters was created in 2017 after a piece of research was commissioned to understand the issue of stress and wellbeing in the events industry. From the research, 10 pledges were developed that would help to reduce the stress that team members may experience. Companies who join the scheme are accredited at a level which reflects the pro-active efforts they are putting into focusing on wellbeing. What's great is that it is designed for the events industry by people in the events industry so each of the Pledge Managers knows the kind of pressures that companies struggle with."

"The grand plan is to reduce the negative impacts of stress in people in the events industry and we are monitoring that across our biennial research. We are an industry that takes health and safety extremely seriously but safety has always been the focus. We would like to see that health side focused on more and companies recognising the hidden costs of stress on their business.

But if we can have other positive changes such as changing the mindset and reputation of the industry and giving practical support to busy teams, then all the better. 2019 will be focused on running the research again and getting more companies signed up to the scheme. "

Twickenham are one of the first venues to work with Stress Matters, and Laura explains the background to the partnership.

"The Health and Safety Manager at Twickenham, Hannah Myles, reached out to us to see how she could focus on the health of her team. Historically her role involved far more focus on the safety of the team, and she wanted to address the balance.

"Hannah saw that the Stress Matters pledge gave a great structure to focus their efforts and, with the audit, see how much impact they were having. As with all our pledgers, they are looking to improve the health, happiness and wellbeing of their team. Being a busy venue, they have pinch points throughout the year, and they want to try to create a more wellbeing orientated approach to work so those pinches aren't quite as tight as they have been."

Twickenham has just begun their journey with Stress Matters, so what should we expect now?

"The stadium has gone through the audit phase and we have worked with them to identify their SM benchmark level which will be one of the factors that we base our 12-month review on. They are currently working on the action plan to map out how the pledgers they have committed to will be achieved."

Both Twickenham and Stress Matters will keep our customers updated with the results of the partnership and we'll share findings on how we can all become more aware of wellness in business.

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