The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a substantial, rapid change to the working lives of communications and PR professionals of all types. There has been a great deal of speculation on what this means for our work, but not enough is grounded in data.

Last month, H+K surveyed the experiences of 220 PR professionals across 20 countries. For most of us, April marked a few weeks since the beginning of full lockdowns.

A report is available here. Here are the seven key findings:

Most team leaders report less oversight of their team’s performance, despite no reduction in the frequency of team meetings and check-ins. As the global COVID-19 situation continues, line managers will need to identify new ways to support their teams and regain this level of oversight.

  • Among managers, 27% believe that they don’t have good oversight of team performance. This is a three-fold increase since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest barrier to working effectively from home is family responsibilities. Amongst those facing the biggest day-to-day challenges are working parents.

  • Around half of working parents have changed their pattern of hours worked.
  • However, 40% said no help was provided by their employer, including flexibility in working patterns.
  • Working parents were twice as likely to report a drop in team morale than were other staff.

For most, team morale is now a lot lower than before lockdown. However, many of us making an active effort to lift team spirits.

  • 15% believe that team morale is a lot worse, whilst 51% believe that it is a little worse.
  • Fun virtual activities, such as team socials and introducing family members, are being used to maintain strong team relationships.

Mental and physical wellbeing is a top priority for PR professionals. We discovered that almost all of our respondents want practical, informational and emotional support from their employers.

  • Over a third worry that social isolation will have a negative impact on their work performance.
  • 40% of our respondents worry that social isolation will have an impact on their mental and physical health.

Most of us are working longer hours; reporting a bigger increase in hours worked than in other instances where professionals move to home working.

  • Nine in ten PR professionals are remote working.
  • Six in ten, are working longer hours at home.

Line managers prioritise team members’ wellbeing over productivity during these difficult times. However, there is a widespread belief this concern is not shared by their organisations.

  • 10 to 1 line managers prioritise wellbeing over productivity, where the perception is that organisations prioritise both equally.

PR professionals are using an increasingly wide variety of methods to connect with colleagues.

  • 60% send more WhatsApp and SMS messages, whilst 20% also use more emojis and GIFS!
  • Video conferencing is the new norm, as 78% of PR professionals regularly show their faces with video calls. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this figure stood at just 11%.

Ultimately, many PR professionals see some silver linings and long-term positive changes emerging from this experience, especially in terms of flexible and home working. However, areas for improvement include leadership, oversight of productivity and mental wellbeing.