Managing workplace stress: how PR companies can cultivate a healthy work culture
All PR professionals know the industry is a fast-paced environment. In fact, the speed and variety of the work is what draws many into the field in the first place. It’s a dynamic sphere of constant change, targets, expectations, and emerging opportunities.
Many thrive in this kind of setting, finding that a certain degree of pressure can be both a motivating and energising force. Equally, however, powering at full throttle for too long can cause burnouts, as well as poor mental and physical health. As overall social awareness of mental health has increased – with Stress Awareness Month behind us and Mental Health Awareness Month ahead – the effects of industry-wide issues have also moved into the spotlight, especially amid pandemic turbulence. With previous habits and coping mechanisms swept away, we’ve seen our work-life balance and professional environments heavily impacted.
People are the key force behind a successful organisation, so ensuring their health and wellbeing should lie at the heart of any business. Considering that more than three-quarters (79%) of the UK’s total workforce has experienced burnout — and numbers were already increasing even before the pandemic – it’s clear that the work must continue.
Building healthier, happier work cultures
While awareness workplace stress is increasing, there is a disconnect between the structures companies are implementing and employees themselves. According to YouGov, over half (52%) of employees feel confident their organisation is effective at handling occupational stress, but only 23% of workers are aware of systems aimed at spotting and managing stress or burnout.
This means that aside from making sure measures are in place to proactively keep an eye on and manage staff stress levels, communication must be a priority for management teams. Line managers today need the knowledge and confidence to recognise stress, as well as the ability to address sensitive topics in a respectful and caring way.
Putting wellbeing at the centre of a company’s ethos contributes to a more compassionate and empathetic culture where staff feel comfortable talking about their challenges. At the same time, this creates a flexible and personalised approach that helps build a diverse and inclusive workplace; leading to more productivity, creativity, and innovation.
At GingerMay, figuring out the best ways to serve our team is a continuous process but we’ve already taken several steps to work on building a people-first business model:
- Making sure part-time, flexi hours, or work-from-home arrangements are available to our staff, which 100% of our team benefit from.
- Having dedicated mental health-first aiders amongst our staff who are able to pinpoint early indicators of stress and take supportive action. With 40% of PR professionals suffering from mental ill health in 2021’s census – up 6% from the previous year – it is more important than ever these problems are flagged as soon as possible.
- Implementing a consistent feedback-driven culture that recognises the need for constant adaptation and review.
- Addressing mental health in company meetings, especially around significant dates or events to ensure that no talk is off the table.
The three pillars of stress management
While everyone knows what specifically suits their own needs, timetables, and general lifestyles, most healthcare providers suggest covering the basics to reduce stress levels: movement, sleep, and nutrition.
Movement – exercise releases both endorphins and cortisol, hormones that make us feel happier and more energised on one hand, while on the other increasing our capacity to manage our stress. At the same time, starting an activity can be a good opportunity to get involved with something social and connect with others. GingerMay organises company-wide fitness challenges, while also encouraging staff members to participate in events such as charity races, supporting our team to stay active and motivated.
Sleep – Fatigue costs the UK up to £115 – £240 million per year, with as many as 1 in 3 people in the UK sleeping poorly. However, the importance of sleep is often neglected, despite the fact that it can affect a wide range of cognitive, mental, emotional, and physical functions. Excessive pressure at work and setting a precedent for overtime can lead to sleeping difficulties, alongside individuals trading their sleeping hours for the personal time they miss due to work. That’s why we use data to manage our workflows. By continuously analysing time allocation, our resourcing team ensures presenteeism and overtime are not an expectation; giving our staff genuine flexibility and the headspace to be both creative and invest in their own progress.
Nutrition – The relationship between what we eat and how we feel is more than a little complex, but research confirms the two are linked. After all, who hasn’t felt a little hangry before? Often certain food groups are vilified while others revered – consider superfood trends versus trans fats – but the truth is, it’s rarely possible to draw black-and-white conclusions. In general, regular meals, enough water, more healthy fats (olive/rapeseed oil, nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, eggs), wholegrains, fruit, veg, live yoghurt, beans, probiotics, and protein all contribute to a healthy gut, body, and mind. The stomach is truly the seat of emotion, so being mindful keeps it happy! We ensure our office caterers supply healthy and delicious food for our staff, while also sharing our “dishes of the week” to inspire each other. We also provide workshops on the many benefits of informed dietary choices for both sustainability and nutrition.
To Each Their Own
Ultimately, how we manage stress is a matter of personal needs and preferences: everyone has their own ways for dealing with stress and challenges. To provide some stress-busting inspiration, however, we’d like to share some of our team favourites – we’re all in this together, after all!
“I am a firm believer in ‘active meditation’ as a route to dealing with stress – whether it be picking up an instrument, some knitting, or even doing the washing up at the end of a working day. Focusing on a simple or creative task and keeping your hands busy is a great way of taking your mind off stressors, and the little boost from what you might achieve or create doesn’t hurt either.”
“Catch it early. Get to know your stress signals, recognise them, and take action now to avoid the situation progressing. In the moment it can be incredibly difficult to step back and look ahead, but it is one of the best things you can do. Assess what is realistically achievable within your working day, plan your week if you need to, and be sure to manage expectations with your account teams.”
Firing up the endorphins:
“Setting aside time to exercise is key to help lower stress levels. Choosing the right time of day and a form of exercise you enjoy is more likely to make this successful; for me it would be dancing, as it makes exercising fun, and means I can listen to my favourite music at the same time.”
“I run during my lunch breaks for exercise, fresh air, and sun (sometimes), which resets me for the afternoon.”
Don’t be afraid to reach out:
“Talk to someone! Even if you don’t expect them to help you come to an answer, saying things out loud can help to order your thoughts.”
Incorporating general awareness around stress into the foundations of a business, its policies, and its governance will go a long way to help team members feel supported from the beginning. This includes general management standards that make stress part of their checklist. Businesses need to be flexible to meet the needs of their staff, as this flexibility can help individuals manage the ebb and flow of stressful environments.
Time and time again, studies have proven that happier employees are more productive – but beyond this, who wouldn’t want to run a business where people want to be?