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  • Laila Datoo

How I began my wellness journey and how it can inspire you!

I recently spoke at the launch EventFuel wellness event, about implementing wellness strategies in the workplace. I started with my personal thoughts & experiences, as my journey into wellness has come from a very personal place. I've shared some of my talk here and I hope you find it useful and interesting!

We have all seen the statistics that events management is the 5th most stressful role behind enlisted military personnel, fire fighter, airline pilot and police officer. (see the article here)

Every team I have worked with has had cases of burnout and stress- some severe, resulting in resignation or time off. I often feel event personalities can be more susceptible to the stress brought on by the demands of event roles.

My personal experience is that as much as I have loved my career in events, it has caused stress in varying degrees over the years. We all recognise the common triggers - highly pressured environments, deadline driven, the need for perfectionism, demanding clients, long hours.....I can see you all nodding your heads!

At Last Word I have seen this across the board, not just on the events team – as I have worked on several projects across the business operations - a company re-brand, restructuring teams & working on HR issues.

I went through a very stressful period of about 2 years where I was juggling several roles in the business, which led me to taking a 3-month career break at the end of 2016. I was really lucky that the business supported this and my team worked to support my role while I was away. During this time I travelled, explored the world and had many different experiences. I also trained to be a yoga teacher as I felt a real need to dive deeper into the benefits of the mind philosophy of yoga.

Being in places like New Zealand, Bali & Costa Rica really opened my eyes to a very different approach to wellbeing where it isn't one isolated thing you do in a hectic day (like stopping to breathe, eating a healthy lunch or doing a yoga class), but adopting a totally holistic way of being.

What did I see?

An outdoorsy, active life – filled with natural, plant-based foods, sunshine, nature on your doorstep, & a much stronger connection to ourselves.

It’s so obvious but it's much healthier for our minds to have space - physical and mental, and for our bodies to feel that space. When we can think better, we feel better, we act from a better place and so perform better.

Coming back from my career break, I was really keen to implement what I had learnt into the business. LW fully supported this as we had already discussed a wellness week, so we launched this in March this year, focusing on different aspects of wellness.

We ran a combination of workshops and interactive sessions on a wide range of subjects covering 3 main areas- mental performance, active and nutrition & health.

The 3 main modules were:

  • Personality & how this impacts how we see the world

  • The Observer and being able to observe ourselves, people & situations without judgement, and finally

  • Communication and how people can interact with others.

We did different exercises to bring this to life so people could really start to understand how mindfulness can help them in daily life, rather than it being all theory.

So what take-aways can I share with you that you could adopt in your event teams?

  • Breathing at start of a meeting

  • Check in - asking “where are you now?”

  • Being present (leaving laptops / phones outside)

  • Offering healthy snacks in the office

What have been our challenges so far?

  • The wellness program has really been about raising awareness- a lot of people don’t understand mindfulness or make the link between productivity, performance and time out (breaks, mindfulness, meditation)

  • We are running a follow up info session at the end of Sept to talk about the take-aways from the -8-week program and get some past attendees to come along and talk about their experiences

  • We are working towards more buy in from management – they support us fully in doing it but haven’t attended any sessions yet – we have had some senior staff join sessions though which I think is huge positive PR and makes the company senior management much more human

  • It is a costly investment to bring in someone external to create a big campaign around it to really build engagement so we are doing this internally with the resources available to us

Let's focus on the positives!

  • Weekly yoga has been really popular – I regularly have 8 students

  • The mindfulness program was a big success – we had 6 volunteers and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with attendees seeing a direct benefit on their personal lives, their awareness of the way they show up in life and work situations and how much happier they feel!

  • We are now running a monthly wellness activity – this month is an interactive nutrition workshop where people can learn and make healthy recipes

  • An indirect benefit of the wellness program is more mixing among teams- increases socialising and team camaraderie

So where do we go from here?

We are keen to develop this further and look at how to implement some of these ideas into smaller teams, such as starting meetings with a mindful moment.

Some of the above practices and techniques we have implemented are also very easily applicable to events. For example, healthy snacks/ breaks, mindful moments, stretch exercises in between sessions to re-energise delegates, no technology....

The biggest take away for me is to start measuring the impact the wellness program is having on employees, so that I can show the business the tangible improvement on staff wellbeing, performance and positivity!

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