Loneliness. It’s not a word you might associate with the life of a busy PR professional. But it’s a theme that will champion Mental Health Awareness Week this year and it’s certainly a state of mind that I am familiar with. Alongside plenty of other mental and mindset challenges that I navigate in my new freelance life!
According to the Mental Health Foundation, loneliness is not about the number of friends we have or the time we spend on our own. Loneliness is something we all feel at times. It’s normal. But when it gnaws at your self worth or sense of belonging in the long term, it’s something you definitely need to address.
A sense of loneliness or isolation at work has numerous triggers - many of them relevant to our PR industry. For Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m keen to explore the issues, share my own story and offer a few remedies to help anyone who is suffering or wants to support colleagues who may be.
Tasks and timelines
A survey by the CIPR shows almost a quarter of PR professionals have taken time off due to stress, anxiety or depression. Stress at work can be highly isolating. Overwhelming workload appears to be a common theme and a lack of support in the workplace compounds the issue.
Over the past few years, I’ve been on both sides as employer and employee. I’ve learned a crucial lesson that my own action lists and timelines may suit me but don’t fit everyone. Accepting my own individual strengths and weaknesses (I’m officially rubbish at Excel and cannot write a press release after 5pm!) and those of my colleagues is key.
I also recognise that transparent task and time setting with achievable workload planning is vital for my own positive mental health. Turns out it’s also really useful for the people I share it with too!
Values, behaviour and culture
The culture a business sets (inadvertently or otherwise) is intrinsic to how employees feel and behave. But I believe it’s never too late to re-set or ignite a positive work culture.
I’ve recently been involved in curating culture within a fast growth startup. The process started with honest (confidential) conversations with trusted external professionals. And a focus on our values and behaviour became our culture with an action plan we were all invested in.
Although I love my new remote working freedom, my own sense of isolation increases when I don’t feel a valued part of a team. Many businesses have adopted new remote working models but these structures have to nurture a sense of team belonging that also requires mutual trust and transparency.
A key ingredient is for team leaders to be clear about goals and celebrate successes. Equally, team members need to be available and involved to help curate positive team spirit. Countless studies have shown that a sense of belonging is crucial to our happiness, mental and physical health - even longevity.
Where’s the support?
Knowing you are not alone is a big step in tackling feelings of stress or isolation. There are lots of free resources that share honest, personal perspectives from PR colleagues navigating a range of mental health challenges at work. Check out these guides from the PRCA and CIPR.
I’ve also joined virtual communities for tips on dealing with stress and anxiety such as this free Slack channel at Leapers. I’ve learned from group colleagues about 15-min yoga, taking nature breaks and to be honest and content with what I can achieve!
What I do know is that everyone experiences feelings of stress and anxiety at work. It’s normal, but also vital to be able to talk and resolve too.
Check out my list of tips and resources here.
Aerticle written by Gaby Jesson, founder of sales and marketing agency The Prospect Society
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