Pop Up Entertainment runs an official award scheme to recognise its performers’ achievements
When Amy Morris was a singer and dancer onboard cruise ships, she lived in a constant state of anxiety, fearing the day that she would be unable to perform and be sent back home.
“Entertainers are completely disposable and if someone is ill or injured, they’re quickly replaced, so I was always worried that I’d lose my job at any moment,” she says. “Unfortunately, it’s an endemic issue in the entertainment industry and it’s something that needs to be resolved.”
According to Morris, one of the pivotal problems is that those running entertainment companies often underestimate the toll that living in such a constant state of anxiety can have on performers.
“People assume performers are living the dream because they’ve been able to turn what was once just their favourite hobby into a paid job,” she explains. “However, most people don’t understand the mental and physical impact of the immense pressure that comes with being expected to deliver stellar performances and amaze audiences every single day.
“No matter how they’re feeling or what stressful situation happens in the moments before they take the stage, performers are required to put on a brave face and get on with it. Many entertainers struggle with the pressure to always perform well, particularly as they know every performance is being judged by an audience of several hundred people. Their stress is also heightened by the fact that they’re often working onboard ships for months at a time, so they can’t go back home for a break or see friends and relatives easily.”
After seeing these issues prompt many of her peers to leave the industry, Morris was determined to establish a better working environment when she opened her own bespoke entertainment production business. One of her primary goals when founding Pop Up Entertainment was to cultivate a nurturing culture that encourages open communication and protects employees’ well-being.
“If someone is struggling with something, I want them to know that they don’t need to suffer alone,” she explains. “I want them to feel safe and comfortable to talk honestly with me or their colleagues at any time. I don’t want them to be scared to say they’ve pulled a ligament so they can’t perform today, or hide that they’re dealing with anxiety or depression because they’re worried they’ll lose their job. That simply won’t happen at our company. Instead, we want to ensure they get the help and support they need to overcome the issue and continue enjoying their jobs.”
Pop Up also provides a free, anonymous counselling service for anyone who would prefer to speak with an independent party or needs more specialised assistance.
“Any of our employees can arrange an online session with a qualified counsellor at any time, regardless of whether they’re at our UK studio or onboard a ship in the middle of the sea,” says Morris. “It’s all completely confidential and I never find out who has spoken with the counsellor or what they discussed, so employees can talk freely about anything. I simply receive an invoice and pay the bill after their session. Our employees have peace of mind because they know the option is always available to them should they need it.”
Morris has also introduced a three-tier award scheme to officially recognise employees for their achievements. Once they have completed the first step, employees receive a bronze award during a traditional graduation ceremony with caps and gowns. At the end of the second phase, Pop Up presents them with a silver award and treats them to a special experience, and when they finish the third stage, they are given a gold award and a cash bonus.
“My business wouldn’t exist without my employees and it’s important for me to show them my appreciation for their hard work and dedication whenever I can,” explains Morris. “First and foremost, rewarding individuals for their personal achievements makes them feel valued and fulfilled, thereby boosting their morale and motivation.”
Prioritising the health, well-being and personal and professional growth of employees has commercial benefits too. “If your staff are happy and encouraged to develop themselves, they’re more motivated to work harder and improve their performances, which translates into better reviews and eventually, new contracts,” says Morris. “Before signing contracts with cruise operators, we explain to them how and why we prioritise employee well-being and they’re usually fully supportive because they realise that a happy crew leads to happy guests.”
Pop Up’s employees are certainly grateful for the firm’s approach to business.
“We have a lot of experienced employees who have worked for other companies in the industry, 99 per cent of them have shared very positive feedback with us,” says Morris. “They have openly shared that they can’t believe how much better the working experience is at Pop Up and they’re telling the new graduates we employ that they have no idea how incredibly lucky they are. I’m immensely proud that our employees feel happy and fully supported because it shows our business model is working and means we’re achieving our goal to revolutionise the industry’s approach to employee well-being.
“Pop Up is a unique business and I don’t generally want competitors copying our model, but when it comes to employee well-being, we want to be the trailblazer that everyone follows. Our ultimate goal is drive change and make the wider passenger ship entertainment sector a happier, healthier and more rewarding place for everyone to work.”
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