Leadership / 07.30.19
Can You Achieve Work-Life Balance in Ticketing?
Many people talk about work-life balance, but how many ticketing professionals are successfully managing the demands of work, family, friends, faith and fun? Turns out there are more doing it — and doing it well — than you might think. Others are struggling to find harmony between the office and their personal lives.
We reached out via the INTIX social channels and website forums to ask for your stories, strategies and successes. Here are 14 tips to help make your work-life balance work better.
1. Create an Expert Team, Cross Train and Learn to Delegate.
“Working for a Major League Baseball team is not for the faint of heart,” says Mardi Dilger, Director of Ticket Operations for the Miami Marlins.
Indeed. Each team plays 81 regular season games. Then, there’s the possibility of a tiebreaker, Wild Card Game, playoffs and the World Series. Venues are also booked on non-game days for concerts, soccer matches, trade shows and an occasional Monster Jam.
How do you balance all this with life outside of work? “You create a family of expert staff and share the love across all channels,” Dilger suggests. “This has not always been as easy as it sounds. In the past, I was not very good at delegating. I would keep everything close to me and everything had to have my touch on it. Then one day I realized I was not enjoying anything. I was creating a drudge of a life. I worked all the time and when not working I was thinking about working. I had to change.”
Dilger continues, “After evaluating the work, my need for control and how I was slowly killing myself, I started making small changes. First, I learned to trust my team. Then, I started delegating things I used to keep close to me. Over the course of a year, I’ve lightened my self-induced workload, taken vacations and started doing more things I enjoy. It took me over 30 years to understand that a one-woman (or man) show can only go on so long. It is never too late to start. I did and I have never been happier.”
Jennifer Dobrowolski, Box Office Manager at the Walton Arts Center, agrees. “Delegate the everyday tasks to a staff member [and] cross-train your staff to work on multiple projects … The biggest unknown is what shows will land when, so I make sure my staff is prepared to move when ready, and they are crossed-trained on each other’s jobs. I take steps to keep them motivated so that when I’m not there they can put out their own fires.”
2. Become More Efficient.
“Early on in my career, when I was trying to get ahead, you feel you need to be at every meeting and have your face seen at every outing. You’re the first in the office and the last to leave. It’s a problem, because being first in the office and last to leave doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working efficiently all day. You’re just there,” says Jacque Holowaty, Vice President of Client Experience and Ticketing for Spectra. “Quite frankly, it burns you out. You start to not like what you’re doing, you start to get frustrated and you can make mistakes because you’re tired. When I had kids, I looked at my children and said, ‘I’m not going to spend 80 or 90 hours a week at work because I want to spend that much more time with my kids.’ I made a conscious effort to really manage my time effectively at work. So, if I’m at work, I’m working hard so I can get things done.”
When it comes to time management, technology can help organize your life. Having the confidence to say no when asked to take on a new project can be important for efficiency, too, says Holowaty, adding that it’s never been because she doesn’t want to help. For veterans and those just starting out in the industry, Holowaty suggests looking at your tasks as a whole and having a dialogue with your boss about everything you’re doing.
“Let your supervisor make the decision of those priorities that need to get cut to take on this new job. They may say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know you did all those things.’ Or, ‘Hey, this project’s not important because this other project is a priority now.’”
3. Don’t Let Your Email Manage You.
In a recent article, we shared a great email tip from Kay Burnham, Vice President of Guest Services at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts: It’s not necessary to read an email the moment it comes in.
Peter I’anson, Business Development Manager for SecureMyBooking, offers some equally helpful tips to manage an overflowing inbox.
“Last year, I realized 80% of my emails didn’t need anything [from] me. They were junk or just me being cc’d into things that were not of any relevance,” I’anson says. “Since then, I have unsubscribed from so many email lists and I now follow the companies or people on Twitter and LinkedIn so I can read when it’s right for me and not have an inbox full of things I plan to read later but never get around to.”
I’anson has also created a special rule for emails on which he is cc’d, which transfers them to his deleted folder in most cases.
“If you are emailing something for me, you will email it to me directly. If you are covering yourself or just want to show you are doing something, I am not interested. It’s just adding more clutter, and we are all adults, so I don’t feel we need to do that … I have a whole host of rules for email that took a couple of hours to set up, but they have ensured my inbox only has important emails that generally need some action taking or info I need to read. This has resulted in me being able to keep a clear inbox most of the time and [I don’t feel the pressure of seeing many emails when I’m not working].”
4. Eliminate Distractions.
“I’ve been very focused on distractions and trying to eliminate them during the day,” Holowaty says. “That’s turning off email notifications and social media notifications on my phone so they don’t pop up and distract me …I’ve made a conscious effort to get rid of as many unnecessary distractions in the day because a lot of disruptions come up [in our industry] that are unplanned.”
“There are definite times in my job when I need to shut the door to eliminate interruptions,” says Christy Grantham, Ticket Central and Administrative Manager for The Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College. “I can have a million interruptions in a day, but there are certain things that have many moving parts, and I need to focus on them from beginning to end, like building a show … If I get stopped at any one of those steps, when I come back to it, I have to start from the beginning. So, what should take between 10 and 30 minutes depending on the complexity will take days or weeks.”
5. Accept That You Will Always Have a To-Do List.
“A thing that is hitting me is that there will always, always, always be work on my to-do list, and staying until 10 o’clock yet another night is not going to change that,” Grantham says. “So, if I can keep my workday to a reasonable length — and what I mean by that is if there’s no show, cap it at eight or nine hours — I can go home, spend time with my family and reacquaint myself with my friends. Then, when I come back, I’m more rested, refreshed and able to focus. If there’s a show of course the rules change, but I have a to-do list with items that have been on there for weeks and months in some cases. That is apparently always going to be the case, because I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and that has not changed.”
6. When You Are Home, You Are Home.
“I have been in this business a very long time. When I started out, it was all about the work or job. It was not a career. I worked crazy hours, day and night,” shares Linda Forlini, Vice President for Ticket Philadelphia. “In the late 1980s and early 1990s, 10 years into this job, I had many wonderful friends pass away from AIDS. That is when I had my ‘aha moment.’ Life to me was not finite; this disease changed my mind. I started to change my habits. We did not have email back then, but we all had beepers to be on call. I informed my staff and management that I would answer the page and, if it was urgent, I would respond. If not, I would understand the issue and politely tell the staff member that I would deal with it the next business day. Eventually, only the urgent calls would be made and things worked out well.”
As Forlini’s job became a career, she moved up the ladder and became a manager, director and vice president. It was important to her to set the tone and example that she wanted for her colleagues and direct reports.
“I refrain from contacting anyone who is not in the office. I follow this as much as possible. I am still running a business and have certain expectations from my board that I accepted and fulfill,” Forlini adds. “Your family and home life come first. When you are here, I expect 100%. When you are home, you need to be home. We are not doing brain surgery. Babies will not die. Subscribers and single ticket buyers may act like they are dying, but everything can be made whole, or at least satisfied, the next business day.”
7. Work at Home When You Can.
I’anson is often at home — even when he’s working. He lives more than 200 miles from his office, which he visits every three weeks for three days. His home office gives I’anson the flexibility to work across time zones. The kitchen is close by — and so is his bed if he has a call with someone in the United States late in the day.
“Working from home gives me great work-life balance as I am able to pop some food in the oven or slow cooker during the day, ensuring dinner is ready when my partner gets home. This frees up a lot of time in the evenings as previously I would have only started to cook when getting home from work. Being able to put the laundry on and do other household chores in my lunch break frees up a lot of my weekend when I would have been doing this.”
8. Take Advantage of Flex Time and Banked Hours.
April Moon, Associate Director of Audience Services at Canadian Stage, is a busy parent who works outside the home. She and her husband are both in the industry and feel fortunate to work for organizations that offer flex time. This allows Moon to work late, or evenings and weekends, as needed.
“Sometimes people say, ‘that’s too bad, you work evenings and weekends.’ I think it’s good. [Banking hours] stops me from feeling guilty if I’m going to go see a kid’s concert in the middle of the day, taking them to a doctor’s appointment or just doing life things. I do that to lead by example. And we don’t call it lieu time, we call it banked hours — you make some deposits and you make some withdrawals.”
Moon continues, “Our audience services people do not work regular Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 hours. I’ve created a spreadsheet that I borrowed from a past employer. It’s set up to check your banked hours, and it’s cumulative. Sometimes the staff owe us hours, but that’s because we know in a month we’re going to be working crazy hours, so [we allow them] to take some Fridays off or come in late. “We publish the spreadsheet so that all of us can see it in our ticket and front of house departments. I ask them to check in and look at each other’s banked hours, because if somebody is working loads of hours … I want them to support each other. Someone can say, ‘I see that you’re trending high, why don’t you take Friday off and clear eight hours?’”
9. Strategically Block Your Calendar.
“In my calendar at work, I have blocked out time for planning. The planning of my desk, the planning of my day. It can be anything I want, but it is blocked out. I block out lunch because I don’t want anyone to put a meeting in my calendar [at that time],” Moon says. “I’ve also started to block out when I think I’m leaving for the day … Sometimes I get requests for a 5 o’clock meeting, but that’s not going to work for me because I need to pick up at daycare at 6. Instead of having that awkward conversation that I can’t make a meeting even though I know it’s really important, I just block it out.”
10. Make Time for Activities You Love.
Is there anyone who doesn’t want more fun in their life? I’m guessing not! As ticketing and entertainment professionals, it’s our job to create enjoyment and excitement for others. We need to do it for ourselves, too. So grab your family or a friend, put your cellphone away and do something that moves you. Literally or figuratively.
“I actively take part in an inclusive rugby team near where I live. Training twice a week, no mobile phone involved, and completely different to my line of work,” says Samuel Biscoe, Commercial and Sales Manager for the Corn Exchange.
The team is accepting and inclusive of all sexualities. “It [also] helps support a positive approach to sport in the LGBT community, and provides a safe and welcoming environment to meet new people, find new skills and try something outside of most people’s comfort zones.”
Briscoe’s team is part of IGR (International Gay Rugby), the body that helps align more than 100 teams around the world. He leads their social media accounts and helps create content, too, so there is some crossover with his work, but it’s something he loves to do in his spare time.
“Rugby provides me a great way to achieve work-life balance, an excellent way to exercise all sides of my personality, and has also helped increase my fitness and communication skills,” Biscoe adds.
11. Don’t Let Tidying Up Stress You Out.
It’s okay to live in your home and live by your own rules. Give yourself permission to wait if you don’t want to load or unload the dishwasher today. Ditto for laundry, organizing, gardening, grocery shopping and any other household task you can think of right now.
“You can come over for a meal, but you might just have to step over Lego,” Moon says. “The last thing I do is the gardening and the tidying of my house. We are a busy family, and it’s OK with all of us. I don’t hold stress the way most people define stress.”
12. Take Your Vacation Time.
Numerous studies show that Americans who get paid time off from work don’t use it all. A recent poll found that only 52% are definitely taking a vacation in 2019 and 13% plan to take a quarter of their vacation days or fewer this year. Incredibly, 4% aren’t planning to take any time off at all. Yet time off is good for your health — and your career.
“Never roll over a vacation or PTO (paid time off or personal time off) day,” Forlini says. “You need to make memories and have memorable experiences with your family and friends, not your co-workers.”
“Once the season is mostly set, I set up vacation time for every 12 weeks and make sure everyone knows. [I’m] not bragging, just setting boundaries,” Dobrowolski says. “Then I delete all work emails and calendars from my phone while I’m on vacation.”
“Being British, I think our work culture is very different to that of North America,” says I’anson, who gets 33 days of paid vacation leave each year plus additional time off most years between Christmas Day and New Years. “I see the North American culture to be one of working all the time and taking as little leave as possible makes you a great employee. The culture in the United Kingdom tends to [lean] toward the thinking that time away from work recharges and refreshes you. This difference leads to a better work-life balance and employees who feel valued and more energized. Life shouldn’t ever be about working yourself to the bone in hopes of a great retirement, as life should be lived every day. I would love to see more of my North American colleagues’ companies take a lead with longer paid vacation leave. It won’t bankrupt anyone’s business, and it will pay off, as studies show people would trade more time off for less pay. When a whole team gets more time off, others will be more than happy to work that bit harder to cover as they are all reaping the benefits of being able to take a little more time to enjoy life.”
13. Start Saving for Retirement Early.
It seems like I was a teenager just last week. I didn’t have a care in the world and spent most of my money on concert tickets. True story! These days, I still buy lots of tickets to see live music and more, but I’m much more careful to balance my spending so I can cover life’s unavoidable expenses, have fun, give back and also save for my future.
Forlini believes saving for retirement is important and offers this advice: “Put as much as you can in your 401k or equivalent and never take a raise until you are depositing the maximum amount you can for your age. If you get a cost-of-living adjustment raise, you put that in the 401k, you do not take it.”
14. Work Together and Have Fun Together.
“The more we know about other departments, the more we can appreciate what everybody is doing and hopefully help alleviate some time. It’s easy to say all ticketing does is push the button and tickets print when you don’t know what ticketing really is,” Holowaty says. “All of us have to work together, that is what makes us strong … [so we can] collectively be a better team for all of us to achieve that [work-life balance].”
“We do stuff as a team really well here at Canadian Stage,” Moon says. “We check in with each other. There is a lot of time and a lot of space so we can take a moment. We have a nice courtyard. It’s used all the time in the summer, so at any point you can go out there, grab a seat and we’re not talking about work. Years ago, the executive director at the time started a running club at 9 a.m. She put it in my calendar and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I have to do it, but I’m not really a runner’ … but by the first year we went into our first 5K. We are still doing running club. There are seven of us who have it in our calendar, but we don’t all run each week … and it’s fun.”
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Tags: Arts , Venues , INTIX 2019 , Leadership