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How lockdowns have impacted PR’s health

How are you feeling? You might have found the last 18 months have taken their toll on you emotionally, but they have also offered chances to take stock and work on your health. Here PRs describe the ways lockdowns have improved them as well as challenged them.

Less drinking

Jess McDonnell, PR and content executive at R&D tax specialists Access2Funding: “From my personal experience, I'm drinking less than before lockdown. I'm from an agency background and previously worked in Liverpool City Centre. We'd generally go out on Thursday and certainly on Fridays. If we didn't make it out we'd often have a drink at our desks - it was ingrained in our culture. I'm now working PR in-house and almost 100% remote. I do miss the social aspect a little, but I don't miss the pain of hungover Fridays and the money spent on food to try to make it through the day!”

Lee Simpson, account director at agency Fourth Day PR: “I think pre-Covid, like a lot of other people, I would default to having a beer or a glass of wine at an evening networking event. I'm not sure that not doing this has made me any healthier though - I've just replaced going to a bar with opening my own fridge...

“It would be nice to start doing some in-person events and networking soon as it's difficult to replicate online. Having said that, I did recently take part in a PR/journo virtual speed-dating event organised by Vuelio. It consisted of ordering a Deliveroo lunch (courtesy of Vuelio) and then being randomly matched with four journos on Zoom. This was definitely a positive to have come out of lockdown and didn't require any alcohol whatsoever for the conversation to flow. So maybe this is the (teetotal) future?”

Gareth Hoyle, managing director of agency, Marketing Signals: ”Habits have definitely changed since the beginning of lockdown. Everyone has experienced a significant shift in their routines, which naturally causes us to have new perspectives.

“I think one of the biggest changes is the lack of events and parties. For most people, drinking is a way to socialise, so our increased nights in the living room have made many of us less likely to reach for a bottle of wine. I don’t think people have stopped drinking altogether, but the number of times a week they do has gone down considerably.”

More exercising

Garethy Hoyle: “My own health has also taken an upward turn now I’m working remotely. I have more time to exercise and go for walks, as I no longer have to drive to and from the office each day. This has helped me think more clearly, which has a positive impact on my stress levels. I also encourage this with my staff, our flexible working policy means everyone can take some time out when it’s needed, whether to go for a walk or switch off from work for a little bit.”

Dan Tredler, director at agency Broadcast Revolution : “One of the more positive things about lockdown was the announcement that we were allowed to exercise once a day. As a keen cyclist I don’t usually need much of an excuse to don the Lycra and jump on my bike. But aside from the multitude of physical and mental benefits I receive from cycling it also gives me time to think creatively. Before lockdown, I mainly rode bikes with friends, but that all changed with social distancing and I found riding solo provided an element of real freedom. Whilst I can’t claim any world-changing problem solving occurs whilst in the saddle, I do get headspace away from my desk which can often lead to clearer thinking especially when dealing with clients, plans and objectives. Many a ride I’ve headed out with a seemingly unsolvable problem at the start to find a better perspective of the situation by ride end. Just simply not thinking about the problem at hand can sometimes help with the solution.

“I’m now back riding bikes with friends again, last week eight of us cycled Somerset, Devon and Cornwall as a group, we laughed we sweated and we rode almost 600 km of beautiful English roads together, however when I want to find some real calm I’ll once again jump on my bike for a solo excursion and open up my mind once again.“

We have transformed our agency

Will Hart, group MD of agency UNLIMITED Communications: “The lockdowns have enabled us to completely transform the way we work. We’re reconfiguring our workspace to address what ‘work’ now actually means for our people, individually and collectively. We’re building a flexible, hybrid-friendly environment that meets the personalised needs of our talent. 

“The PR industry is at a pivotal moment in a changed society and brands must have an approach based primarily on human understanding - that’s why we launched our ‘Life Time’ initiative encouraging our people to Connect, Give, Take Note, Keep Learning and Be Active. This focus on wellbeing is essential in these unprecedented times and, when done well, ensure that great people can perform at the highest level regardless of Covid-related requirements - that feels win-win!”

Mental health is harder to maintain

Sophie Fox, account manager at Samphire Communications: “‘Personally I think lockdowns have made PRs healthier in the traditional sense - we’re not having to commute so can squeeze in that workout or make a home-cooked meal after work rather than ordering a takeaway. Those ‘extra’ hours on the train are now ours to do with as we please. 

“However, remote working brings a whole new set of challenges for mental health. It’s not as easy to sporadically brainstorm, ask someone a question, or simply interact and communicate - which is what we’re all about after all! We’ve had to work harder to make and maintain journalist relationships, yet alone with new colleagues. In my experience clients are also more demanding, and without an office phone have direct access to call you or WhatsApp whenever they like, often not thinking to schedule in a time like they would have a meeting.”

 It is not long until things open up again, and when they do it will be interesting to see if drinking levels go up to their former levels, exercise levels drop and if strains on mental health increase or decrease.

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