Time to Unplug! How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as an Events Professional
Thursday, April 25, 2019
By Patrick Talty
As I browsed through my emails sitting on the airplane returning from a three-day ski vacation, I began to notice that answers to each of the emails easily glided from my fingers onto the screen of my phone. Just days earlier, all of these emails frustrated and defeated me as they came in. All of a sudden, I wasn’t bothered by the issues and questions that arose from each one. I felt focused and at ease, probably from three days of great skiing, good food, amazing weather and a heavenly setting. Was that it? Yes, it was. I unplugged from everyday life, and it gave me new energy.
It seems like a simple answer, but when you are in the trenches, working each day to lead your team and achieve its goals, you can lose sight of this easy answer. I can look back now and see that I was starting to feel burnout and defeat. It was clear to my team, my wife and my associates, but I was missing it. I was knocked down and frustrated and could not give my best to anyone.
On the trip back, I reflected and thought about my experience and the mood in the office at different times throughout the year. It became clear to me that the whole team has likely felt as I did at some point. I am sure you have been faced with this as well in leading teams, especially high-performing teams in the events industry. There were times when the team didn’t have the normal pep in their step or the creative outlook to solve problems. We all need a break to recharge, but many of us never really are able to do this. Our senior management team has taken steps to ensure we give everyone the best possible shot at successfully taking their time off.
We talk quite a bit each month at our all-staff meeting about self-care and taking the time to recharge. Everyone does it differently — some lay on a beach, I ski — while others can do it in smaller increments within their normal routine. The trick is that we all have to truly unplug and think about things other than our normal duties, responsibilities and to-dos. This can only be done with time — the one asset that is the same for each of us.
I am sure most people would say they cannot afford to take time away or spend it unplugging. It’s the responsibility of events leaders to help all employees do this. If you do not, it will cause you to lose productivity, profits and, even worse, good employees. How do you execute this duty?
Tips for Increasing Work-Life Balance
Allow employees to take the time off in a guilt-free environment. Don’t make them feel like they are going to be punished or looked at as slackers when they take their time. I know we all say, “I would never do this,” but it’s important to look at not only spoken words but unspoken words and actions.
I worked for a boss once who would say “your time is your time,” but when I came back to work, there would be a list of all the tasks that other team members had to do for me because those tasks couldn’t wait and it caused the team extra work. The other common mistake I have experienced is the constant emails and texts asking, “Are you available for a quick call?” They are seldom quick, and they destroy the momentum of unplugging. Inevitably, I always felt guilty as I walked in the door whistling about how great my vacation was.
Encourage unplugging. Make sure team members don’t send thousands of emails to their teammates while they are off and expect an answer within the day. I make it a habit of telling the team that if they get emails, they shouldn’t feel obligated to answer right away. Instead, tell employees to be present with their family, loved ones, friends or just themselves, depending on the activity. This is hard because of the society we live in now. I learned a lesson about this when I lived overseas. There, it is completely acceptable for employees to be unreachable for 30 days at a time when they were on holiday. I had to learn to find the answers with other members of the team or solve the problem myself. I slowly adopted the practice of unplugging when I was off and, amazingly, my team figured out issues on their own when I didn’t answer quick enough. Awesome!
Make sure to approve time-off requests quickly and as often as possible. I know there are some points in business that it is just not possible for folks to be off, but I find my team knows their workload better than I do. The responsible employees will be more conservative around their time off than I will be. Just remember if you say “No; the timing isn’t good,” you are telling your staff to feel guilty for asking. They are going to start to wonder why they have the perk of vacation days if they can’t use them. I always try to ask myself: Will we truly not be able to survive with this person gone during this time? Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer is no.
Set the example. One of the most important things to do as a leader is model for your team. We have to take time off and do not respond to emails and calls or have availability at all hours of the time we are supposed to be away. If we do, then what we say has no meaning, and our team will read the nonverbal cues. Taking a break truly gives us the much-needed time away that we all must take for ourselves sometimes.
My ski trip made me feel like I was ready to take on the world again at work. Imagine if all our employees came to work a couple of times a year feeling this way? What could you all accomplish? All due to unplugging on days that are given as a perk … that’s powerful!
Patrick Talty will be speaking at ILEA Live, 8–10 August 2019! Hear more from him and other events professionals by registering today.
Patrick Talty is the general manager of U.S. Bank Stadium and is charged with leading the SMG team as they book a variety of diverse events and create a safe, memorable, fan-friendly environment for all employees and guests. Talty and his team have already experienced huge success with the opening and first years of operations of the U.S. Bank Stadium — most recently hosting Super Bowl LII. Talty’s effectiveness in building and leading teams, coupled with his ability to market special events, is the foundation for his success.
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