The warning signs that you are working too hard in PR
The first step to handling stress at work is recognising the fact that you are stressed in the first place. It can be hard to switch off in PR, because as Amy Stevens, UK PR manager at audio and video products manufacturer Bang & Olufsen, says “News waits for no PRO and in our line of work it can be difficult to step away from the emails.” So what are the warning signs that you are about to crack? Stevens says you need to watch our for key indicators: “It’s important to understand your tells of when you’re stressed – biting your nails for example, feeling anxious or getting upset at strange times. Once you can recognise when you are in deep water, you can take a deep breath and take charge.”
It is vital to know yourself, says Stephen Waddington, European digital and social media director at PR firm Ketchum, because it is hard to recognise that you are working too hard: “Judging whether you’re taking on too much work can be very difficult, but it’s something you’ll need to master if you want to get on in most forms of occupation. If you accept, as I do, that life/work will occasionally get out of sync for extended periods of time, then having effective coping mechanisms and knowing where your limits are become as important as any other skill. International travel can be particularly tough with early starts, late nights and jet lag.
“If you can't sleep, are comfort eating, drinking too much or getting regular headaches stop now – or you will burn out and be no good to anyone – least of all yourself, your business, and crucially those you wish to support. There is no magic for dealing with stress, but my best advice is put some serious effort into looking after your mind, body and soul.”
If you take on too much you will end up damaging yourself, and maybe even lose your job. Ked Mather, communications manager at technology company MasterCard UK&I, says: “A classic consequence of stress levels in the workplace is a deficiency in quality and standards of work which, in the long term, will not benefit the staff member under stress nor the company they work for. The likely catalyst causing this, is time (or lack of it) and the pressure of deadlines. For me, it all comes down to time-management down to the last detail and getting into some good habits which can help avoid these consequences.”
Top tips for handling stress
Amy Stevens: “Prioritise the immediate, critical tasks and then once those are completed reward yourself – whether that’s by taking the weekend off without your phone or emails turned on, or going for dinner after work. When you come back to work you will have a renewed enthusiasm for the job at hand and feel refreshed. Going to the gym or taking time out with family or friends usually does the trick for me!”
Stephen Waddington: “Learn how to work fast, cut through the crap and disconnect from email from time to time. Think like an athlete and exercise, don’t overdo the drink, don‘t smoke, eat properly and build in time to relax and sleep. Finally, prioritise human relationships and find that thing in your life that keeps you on an even keel. For me that’s a restoration project, and regular time at home in the countryside with my family.”
Ked Mather: “Why not try to set aside five minutes every morning to clear your emails and manage your inbox? By this, it could simply mean setting aside emails which you might not need to respond to straight away. You could also build a list of tasks and prioritise them. Of course, actions and additional tasks might well pass onto your desk on an ad-hoc basis too, but when they do, they should be cross-referenced with your existing priorities and built into this list so that the priority of tasks is always a consistent theme towards the planning and management of your day, no matter what surprises hit you.”
How to handle stress in PR
Lianne Robinson, account director at PR agency Broadgate Mainland:
''When you wake up in the middle of the night worrying whether you corrected a figure in a press release or not, you're probably feeling a bit stressed. Having a good work/life balance is crucial in any profession and while some degree of work-related stress is normal, excessive levels interfere with your ability to produce the best work for your company or clients.Our team have a sufficient social time after work to get out and talk to people. If you are chained to your desk morning, noon and night you may be billing lots of hours, but it’s very doubtful that you will be able to think creatively.”
Julia Ruane, senior communications manager, UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES):
“It’s impossible to not overdo it at work. In PR we are at the mercy of outside events and activities beyond our control. So the best approach is to plan ahead for downtime. Always have at least one thing planned in the next month ahead that you can look forward to. It could be a week in the sun or a day off to have afternoon tea with your best mate. But regular, planned short breaks are essential for dealing with stress. When I’m planning an event or a launch, I actually incorporate my time off afterwards in the plan! I tend to leave a few days for any follow up activity then take a few days off to recuperate.”
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