It’s been over a year since those of us at H+K London began working from our spare rooms, kitchens, studies, dining rooms, bedrooms, sofas and any other appropriate nook or cranny that we could find. And ever since there have been countless musings about the lasting impact of COVID-19 from all corners of the comms sphere – so here’s some more.
I have worked in PR for six years now (a fact that I continue to be appalled at – surely graduation was only last summer, right?) and in that time I’ve learnt a lot about the way we work, creativity, and management. Even so, I’d argue that I’ve learned more about myself in the last 12 months than in the five years prior.
It’s been a period of self-reflection and – when I look back on the past half-dozen years – I of course think fondly about moments such as late-night pitch writing over pizza with colleagues and the award-winning campaigns that may have come out of it.
But, so much of my past experience is marred with recollections of solo 6am starts, feverish email drafting sat in the luggage rack of the commuter train. All of this not because I was told that that’s what was expected of me, but all in an effort to be seen as the best, most hard-working, reliable PR executive I could.
Note the key phrase: to be seen as. I’d put professional appearance above how I was feeling, an issue that has been put under a microscope for much of the PR industry during the pandemic, especially when we see each other or be seen.
I caught up with some of the Tech and Entertainment sector team here at H+K to talk about what we can do as individuals, how to spot the signs of burnout amongst peers, and how to avoid it. While burnout in the PR industry isn’t an overnight fix, it can start with our individual efforts.
Here were some of the common themes that came up during our conversation…
According to Jennifer Moss, author of “The Burnout Epidemic”, one of the main causes of burnout is a perceived lack of control over your job or how you spend your workday and in a pandemic where many are working from home on their own, it’s easy to understand why that sentiment might be on the rise.
Guilt was a topic that came up a lot in our conversation, feeling guilty for not being contactable, for taking an extended lunch break, logging off on time – symptoms of not feeling like you have the autonomy to take control of your time.
“Living at Work”
WFH can very quickly become LAW (Living at Work), resulting in working earlier or later as lockdown restrictions have meant that there’s little else to do.
This is a slow creep and easy to brush off as just quickly logging on after dinner or checking a couple of emails but with no physical separation between work and home and no one to check in with at the end of the day, it’s important to nip in the bud.
The “H” Word
Asking for “help” is not something that I excel at. But, something that I have learned is that it’s only when you accept that help is needed that you’ll be open-minded enough for it to make a difference.
You’ll never experience the true benefit of all the support that agencies have to offer until you shift your mindset away from these toxic productivity traits.
Here are some of the solutions, tactics and tips that we as a team have found useful this past year – and we hope you may find them useful too:
- Talking to your team about what they need – not everyone needs help in order to feel supported, but simply reaching out can help
- Over-communicating – if it works for you, get some of that control back and be open with your colleagues about that mid-morning run or 3pm trip to the post office
- Simple things like packing away our workstations into a “workbag” to gain a bit of separation between work and home
- Setting quiet times on our devices – you can do this for both Outlook and Microsoft Teams so you won’t receive push notifications outside of set times
- Taking advantage of flexible working when you can – a 10:30am start can make a big difference
This is by no means an exhaustive list and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but I’ll leave you with a few key reminders that hit home for me:
Working yourself to the bone is not a badge of honour.
Taking care of yourself does not mean that you are not dedicated.
And it is okay to log off on time.