Connecting internal comms and your wellbeing

It’s no secret that the public relations profession can be tough, and it’s easy to feel under pressure to work late, logging in at weekends to catch up and saying yes to everything that hits the inbox.

I’ve been there, finishing work on a Friday and planning to spend a few hours over the weekend catching up on emails and giving myself a head start for the following week. In fact, at one stage I ended up for the first time in my career signed off work by the doctor suffering with generalised anxiety, caused by worrying about work. As we approach World Mental Health Day, 10 October I’ve taken some time to reflect on wellbeing within our profession and what I can do to help.

Sadly, I’m not alone as the CIPR 2019 State of the Profession report discovered that 23% of respondents had taken time off work because of stress, anxiety or depression, sadly an increase from the 2017 report. If this wasn’t worrying enough, Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England found 59% of Public Relations/Communication professionals had experienced a form of mental ill health.

As you might imagine, 2020 has brought further challenges to our wellbeing and the CIPR Health survey, published in August 2020, highlighted that 83% of respondents had felt an impact on their mental health because of the coronavirus pandemic. On a more personal level, I’ve found the pace of work hasn’t slowed and many other internal communicators I’ve spoken to are feeling exhausted with their own wellbeing suffering.

Listening to friends in my network, I’ve set time to complete a mental health refresher course and do more to help friends and colleagues during what’s going to be another tough six months ahead. If you’re an IOIC member, I’d highly recommend you read the ‘Are you about to snap under pressure’ from the IOIC ‘Voice’ magazine. It looks in great detail at the tensions internal comms practitioners face each day.

With all this in mind, I want to make sure Horizon Comms not only offers professional development and guidance but also focuses on wellbeing. To show my personal commitment to support wellbeing within the profession, I’ll be donating a percentage from future workshops and events to the Comms Unplugged Scholarship Fund. For those of you that haven’t heard of Comms Unplugged, you can read a previous article where I shared some insights into #CU19, my first event with this amazing group.

The Scholarship Fund is there to help communication professionals for several reasons, including those that are in their first two years of a comms career and I hope that more professionals #NewtoIC experience this unique event.

I’m not a wellbeing expert, but in all my workshops and events, I’ll share my experiences, personal advice and also bring the knowledge of experts who have also become good friends and helped me. When it’s safe for face-to-face activities to return in 2021 I’ll be launching a new workshop, combining wellbeing and internal communications to help those of you either starting out in the profession or perhaps moving across from another PR discipline so watch this space.

During an online Q&A event I was once asked ‘What’s your one tip for when you felt overwhelmed during the working day’ and I think it’s something we can all relate to. For me, I step away from the computer, leave my phone on the desk and step outside for as long as it takes to refocus. Sometimes it might only be for a minute or two standing in the garden or perhaps a brief 20-30 minute walk, but regardless of the time, have a look at what’s around you and not what’s in your inbox!

If you want to learn more about wellbeing and communications, I recommend checking out the following resources:

CIPR Health group – Supporting the wellbeing of CIPR members and healthcare communicators
CIPR Mental health – Resources for practitioners and organisations
Comms Unplugged – Five steps to wellbeing
IOIC Take care of yourself – Advice to help internal communicators
Mad and Sad club – Support for you and your organisations on mental wellbeing
PRCA mental health – Toolkit for practitioners and communication campaigns

Image by Natasha Spenser from Pixabay