23rd Jun 2023
3 Min Read

The new contagion burning through comms teams

Charlie Feasby
Charlie Feasby
People & Change

Mental health is front and centre in the minds of the comms community – and rightly so. But with reams of content coming from these teams about how to best look after colleague wellbeing, are we neglecting those wielding the pen?

Comms teams are the people at the forefront of employee wellbeing campaigns. It’s their job to get the message out there – urging us to look after ourselves while promoting workplace support and resources.

But a survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and the Public Relations and Communications Association found that nine in ten people who work in PR experienced mental health issues in 2021. That was 25 per cent higher than the UK average.

Headspace has published an employee mental health report highlighting that those responsible for constantly producing content around mental health and wellbeing – HR, PR and comms teams – often suffer for doing so.

It’s their job to look after colleagues, and the pressure of those caregiving responsibilities is making them burn out. And when stress leads to 55 per cent of days off, we’ve got a growing body of evidence that we need to make some changes.

The gloom is catching

As communicators, how we’re feeling bleeds into what we’re telling people – no matter the channel or format, whether we want it to or not. So happier communicators means happier messaging. But if our comms people aren’t feeling their best, then how can we expect them to do their best?

The reverse is true too. If communicators are constantly sifting through data about the decline of mental health worldwide, there’s only so long that they can shake off the feels and give it a positive spin.

This is called emotional contagion – absorbing the emotions of the people and setting around you. For example, if some people in an office are feeling run down, this can eventually make its way around to everyone.

So how do we avoid this? Perhaps it’s time we turn the lens on ourselves and give the PR, HR and IC teams – our comms caregivers – some love.

Your own mask first

These teams are the wellbeing advocates for the whole company. If they’re not looking after themselves, how can we expect them to look after the wellbeing of other people?

“People leaders are exhausted,” says Désirée Pascual, chief people officer at Headspace. “How do we sustain ourselves while continuing to create stability for others?”

HR, PR and IC teams should be setting the example for good wellbeing practices – the messaging is coming from them after all.

The Headspace report uses the analogy of, when you’re on a plane, you put your “own oxygen mask on first.”

And that’s what these colleagues should focus on: putting their own mental health and wellbeing first, and maybe even be given extra resources to do so. Only then can they fully apply themselves to looking after others.

If we look after those whose job it is to look after everyone else, then we’ll all benefit.

Reflection and resilience

Burned out? Unmotivated? Use our online resource to help focus your mind when you need a reset or for more information, get in touch.

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