How a good support system can make or break your PR career

“We come to work as whole people, and if things are not going well at home, they often bleed over into the professional sphere. Increased stress, distractibility, and irritability are some of the ways this can manifest. These, in turn, can lead to decreased creativity and lower productivity.” These are the words of corporate psychologist Dr Patricia Thompson, whose own experiences prompted her to write How Listening to Your Significant Other Can Make You a Better Leader.

Thompson says that it always helps to have someone to whom you can vent at the end of a stressful day, or who can make you laugh when things are getting to you. This doesn’t have to be a significant other, she says, a close friend or confidante can serve the same purpose.

Thompson adds that it is also important to have an active life outside of work. “Even if you are passionate about your job, you need to have outlets so you can recharge in your off time. When you are solely focused on your job, if things are not going well at work, you won’t have other possible bright spots in your life to which you can turn to manage stress and keep a well-balanced sense of identity.”

To underline the importance of a support network and outside interests, we asked PROs how their lives outside of work help them to do a good job.

Case studies

For Warren Johnson, founder of agency W Communications, family and holidays are key: “As an entrepreneur the boundaries between work and home life tend to break down completely. My big focus and way of de-stressing is to spend time with my children. The benefits of having your name above the door is that you can call the shots a lot more on you diary. Therefore I tend to work a relatively short day in the office – usually nine to six – which means I have time to drive my kids to school every day and then put them to bed in the evenings. The downside of this is that I then have to find other time to catch up on an often relentless workload – this usually means getting up very early in the morning and working at home after the kids have gone to bed.

“I'd say I do nearly all my actual work from home, the day time is nearly exclusively taken up with meetings. I find plenty of sleep and a lot of exercise are key to me being on top of my game. It can often be hard to switch off in London which is why I travel a lot – I find that that physical distance is what is needed to really relax. I makes sure that I take a holiday at least every three months to stay on my A-game, otherwise I really struggle to stay focused and motivated."

Max Forrest, development director at press release distribution service Pressat, likes to de-stress with yoga: “My career in PR is highly stressful owing to client demands and lack of guarantees. And as the news industry is a round-the-clock operation it’s often hard to switch off completely. I usually have one eye on something else and the other peeled for emails coming through on my phone.”

“Setting apart a couple of days in the week where I completely break away from work at a set time has been very beneficial – no phones, no emails, just time with the most important people in my life. They are often the ones we don’t see enough, whether family or close friends.”

“I work mainly in an office, sitting in the same chair for hours at a time, surrounded by the same four walls. I separate home from work by ensuring that my outside work life is filled with hobbies and everything else I enjoy that does not involve sitting down.”

“One of the best changes I have made this year is participating in yoga classes at the gym straight after work at least once a week. This has allowed me to release the stresses of the office and not take them home to the other half, which is something I have been guilty of doing in the past.”

Dave Gilbank, director at Manchester-based radio and PR agency Tadah Media, says you need an understanding partner: "With mobile phones and tablets turning the work place into a 24/7 demand it's critical that your domestic arrangements allow for this with a flexible and understanding partner. We all need time off and there comes a point every evening when the phone needs to be switched off. No more work tonight!”

"If you work within the creative sphere, as we do creating radio ads and PR ideas, then a clear framework with set hours and locations can be restrictive. You never know when good ideas will appear. It's vital to have a life outside of work. Children and relationships take up a lot of this, but it's crucial to have some 'me time' when you can empty your brain of work matters and focus on something that interests you.”

"If your home life is not going as planned it will clearly have a negative impact on work. Some folks can block it out and treat the working day as an escape but, for the majority, issues at home can often create issues at work.”

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