Putting Emotional and Mental Wellbeing in the PR Profession Front and Centre

By Mr Adrian Heng, Accredited Member in IPRS & Chief Marketing Officer at Real Estate Analytics and Senior Counsel at Merlot Communications. This article was originally hosted by Global Alliance as part of their Health & Well Being Month, and was reproduced with permission from the writer.

“I hear that the workload, hours and demands in a PR/communications career is really tough. Is that true?” This question, or some variation of it, is often posed to me whenever I speak at a student event, or when I meet an aspiring communications professional. It happens so often that I have come to expect it. Previously, I have not thought much of it. I even wore it as a badge of honour, where I was one of the few that not only survived, but even thrived in the profession.

Now in reflection and being more aware of the importance for not just a healthy physical state, but of the necessity of sound mental and emotional health for each employee, I recognize that as a profession, we need to move away from this practice of long, tough work hours. Beyond the fact that each organization should make efforts to take care of their employees anyway, having employees that are healthy in all aspects, would nine times out of ten, result in staff that are more productive, efficient, creative and engaged.

So for this to happen, there are four common sense things that need to happen;

  1. Organizations need to enact policies and practices that help address this issue. How do we encourage and allow employees to not just maintain a good balance, but also empower them to look after their well-being ? It’s not enough to provide gym memberships and the occasional company day off. There are numerous best practices that are being adopted around the world. Identify some that work for you and make sure they are followed in practice.
  2. Supervisors need to be aware of what the workload is for each person under their care. And I use the word care to make a point. It’s not just about ensuring work is delivered on time and to a quality standard. We need to consciously take note of each individual and how they are over time. Are they regularly working late? Have they been more withdrawn lately? Are they struggling with their work when they didn’t before? Do they have issues at home?
    Then supervisors need to ask the question, what can I and/or the company do to improve the situation if there is a need to.
  3. Teammates, colleagues, and friends play a critical role in the battle for better mental and emotional health. Pay attention to your friends and teammates. Pick up the little clues that say that they are struggling. Have they gotten quiet of late, more withdrawn, pulling long hours regularly, struggling to deliver work when they never have before, are they dropping hints that not all is well in their life?Be a friend and offer what support you can. Sometimes all they need is a person to talk to and know that they are not alone. If it is more than you can handle, gently advise them to seek help, whether it is professional counselling or having a talk with the manager. Offer to help them with the work if you are on top of yours and where you can. It can be that they just need a bit of respite to pull things together for themselves and you hold the key as a friend and colleague.
  4. And finally, ourselves. We need to recognize when we are struggling ourselves. If it is hard to get out of bed in the morning, dreading the start of each day, struggling to find meaning or feeling there is no meaning in living, there is more than a good chance that you might need some help. There is no shame in putting up your hand to ask for help from the company management or your friends. If either gives you grief for it, you should probably be looking for a new job or new friends. You’ll be surprised at how many people are and will give you support through these difficult times. Seeking professional help is the right thing to do for yourself, don’t worry about what others might think. You’ll find that your family, true friends and good bosses will be supportive and will do what they can to help you through this time. And yes, you will be able to come out on the other side of this tunnel better and stronger, even if during this time it might seem hard. You will.

So these days, when I get asked the same question again, my answer has been this; “It can be tough, many jobs can be demanding. BUT if you work in the right company or consultancy, there will be policies and practices to mitigate any unhealthy work environment. Good leadership will do its best to balance the workload and ensure they don’t set impossible deadlines and objectives for you. I myself am committed to this. Won’t you join me and help take the profession to the next level?”