Someone asked me an interesting question recently – what do I think about wellbeing in PR?
In my head, my first reaction was to say that it’s surely as important as in any profession. I’m as much a workaholic as the next person, yet I’m also a huge advocate of the need for balance. I do think we should strive to achieve as much as we can from our careers, but the health of our bodies, minds and souls really matters too!
I also know some very talented grafters throughout all walks of life – teachers, accountants, brand managers, doctors, solicitors, site managers, quantity surveyors, HR gurus, chefs, carers, parents. The list goes on, and wellbeing should matter to all of them.
So why was I specifically being asked about wellness in PR?
At this stage, I’d love to tell you it’s because my ‘quizzer’ (who will remain nameless) had some pearls of wisdom to share. Unfortunately that’s not the case. They had in fact read an article about mindfulness and thought it was something us PR fluffies would be into. I exited that conversation as quickly as I could.
But the question stuck with me. What do I think about wellbeing in PR?
I started doing some research and found, alarmingly, that mental health in PR is frequently ignored, according to a PRCA report published in February 2017. And the more I read the #FuturePRoof document, the more I was shocked to see that the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ mentality remains so commonplace. I was disappointed to think I work in an industry that can still attach such stigma to this element of wellness.
The encouraging thing is that viewpoints seem so polarised, and of course there are a number of PR professionals who will quite rightly talk about the topic and take the necessary steps to help people when they need it. But still…
Dig a little deeper and, in the 2016 CIPR State of the Profession Survey, 30% of respondents claimed to be ‘somewhat unhappy’ or ‘not at all happy’ with their level of workplace wellbeing. Back to the #FuturePRoof report and a number of factors were said to contribute to symptoms such as absentmindedness, anxiety and depression, including ‘always on’ hours, office politics, poor management and a lack of respect. There’s also the general problem no doubt, that – according to the CIPD’s Absence Management Report – nearly a third of UK staff routinely turn up to work when they’re ill.
Some of it made for pretty bleak reading, to be honest!
So did this change my mind? Do I now think that this wellbeing issue is isolated to the PR industry? No, not at all. But am I glad that, as a team, we make a proactive effort to talk about and safeguard our wellbeing? Yes, very much.
We don’t do anything earth-shattering I must say. Some of our initiatives include fresh fruit in the office; a breakout room with beanbags; fresh flowers on every desk; monthly team lunches (food is good for the soul!); away days where everyone has a say in where we’re going (great for camaraderie); quarterly BIG treats (so everyone can see how appreciated they are); wellness workshops (to keep bringing health into focus); above-ordinary pensions so that’s one less thing to fret about; and even simple things like ‘when you’re ill you’re ill’ and ‘the door is always open’ policies. There have even been horrendous rumours that yoga mats are on order… uh oh!
Do I follow some of these ideas because I specifically work in PR? No. I stand by my ongoing point – I think wellness is important whatever your vocation and I care about my colleagues.
Have I started them because we’re PR fluffies? No. It’s because we – like most people surely – like to feel good.
But knowing what I know, do I think these ideas could help a lot of PR professionals? Yes, and many other people too.
Wellbeing can no longer be something that is dismissed in the workplace. We all need to give it more thought.