PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North Creative Moment Awards 2024 PR Masterclass: AI in PR

If you work in PR or marketing - you’re the worst at switching off from work, apparently!

You may not be underpaid if you work in PR, but you may easily be overworked. According to research by software company Workfront, half of marketing and comms professionals check on their work emails in their spare time, so instead of switching off, they are logging in.

Key findings of the survey are:

  • Compared to other UK industries, marketing and comms is a profession full of over-workers
  • Almost half of marketers (48.9%) log into work emails before and after business hours every day
  • Nearly 50% of marketers (48%) admit to checking their work emails every weekend, almost double that of general office workers (28%)

The top reasons marketers give for working outside standard business hours are:

  • To get ahead of work (44.3%)
  • Too much work to do (33.3%)
  • To be available to their clients at any time of the day or night (28.1%)
  • Their company simply expects them to (27%)

According to Joe Staples, chief marketing officer at Workfront, people in the comms and marketing fields are not good at striking a work-life balance, he says: “Marketers, such as PR professionals, are amongst the UK's hardest workers. With the constant pressure to be ahead of the game, working outside of standard business hours is on the increase.

“We’re always going to work after hours to help our clients or to reach a deadline; it’s in our nature as marketers. However, we need to start implementing the right tools to help us get our work/life balance on track, because by not switching off, our productivity decreases.”

How often do you check your emails?

Hannah Patel, commercial director at PR agency Red Lorry Yellow Lorry:
“Susan our marketing manager says I am the worst person in the office for checking and replying to emails when I shouldn’t grin

“Having had a quick think, we’re in agreement that the top three most ridiculous places I have emailed her from are:

  • In front of the pyramid stage at Glastonbury waiting for Lionel Ritchie to come on!
  • The morning after my wedding on a beach in Cornwall
  • Halfway up the hill to see Christ the Redeemer (before taking a selfie at the top)

“I’m officially an addict – and I’m going to Australia in five weeks for my honeymoon – so I’m sure I’ll find somewhere even more obscure there!”

Sally Maier-Yip, managing director of PR agency 11K Consulting:
"I confess that I check my office email outside office hours such as at weekends and in the evenings. However, I don't necessarily reply to inbound emails straight away, but I always keep an eye on my inbox just in case of any urgent enquiries or even crisis. It does help me relieve stress as I work across the time zones in Asia and the UK. But I don’t encourage constant email checks as this will simply distract our personal lives and we’ll never be able to be totally off from work which is counter-productive in the long term.”

Sam Luckin, owner of PR agency Sam Luckin Associates:
“I think it is essential to devote about 30 minutes each and every day, outside normal office hours perhaps, to delete or unsubscribe the many useless and unnecessary e-mails most people receive every day.

“Otherwise the situation could get totally out of hand. For example, under Junk this morning I had about 75 emails and I have got in to the habit, and discipline, of doing this very day. If it is not undertaken daily then chaos would ensue, I believe. Of course checking emails in one’s spare time makes life easier overall.”

Steven Brown, PR account executive at broadcast agency USP Content:
“I have successfully managed to relax my habitual email checking over the past few months. Over the summer, I had spent all holiday on my laptop or phone checking my emails. Despite being in the sun, by the sea with my family, my general demeanour was downbeat upon reading emails and keeping updated with the office’s progress from thousands of miles away. On reflection, this helped no one, least of all myself. From now on, I have made the promise to delete my Outlook app before taking adventures abroad. Holidays are a time to be gratified, not gloomy.”

Vivi McDuell, senior account executive at agency Teamspirit PR:
“There is no doubt that in today’s ‘always on’ world, as a PR you have to be more accessible to journalists and clients than ever before. This means checking emails almost all the time – particularly if you’re on call for clients crises – whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night. And, when that late night call comes in from a journalist looking for more information on a Sunday-for-Monday story you’ve been pitching, you can’t help but jump at the reply. And really, I don’t think many PR professionals would have it any other way…”

Amanda Wheeler Martin, global products and industries PR lead, at research agency Gfk:
“If I’m on holiday for a single day, I will scan my emails – just to pick up on anything urgent. But when I’m away for a week or more, I think it’s important to switch off fully, so that I come back fresh. For those periods, I make sure I’ve got my out-of-office set up with a colleague’s full contact details and that’s I’ve fully briefed that colleague on my current projects. That way I know it’s all in good hands and can relax mentally. The only ‘peeking’ I do is to zip through my inbox the night before I go back into the office, to delete all the sales-type emails and just leave the ‘real’ stuff to read through properly on my first day back.”   

David Alexander, managing director at agency Calacus Public Relations:
“With a small team, I always used to check my emails all the time on holiday. The first time I decided not to, I got acute food poisoning and ended up on a drip in hospital for five days of a week-long break. The second time I decided not to look at all, a major story broke and I ended up writing a very sensitive release and managing media for a key client. I try hard not to look more than once at weekends but when crisis hits, it invariably comes at unsociable hours and clients require senior counsel. It’s part and parcel of the job.”


The survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Workfront from 16-23 November 2015 among 2,051 office workers and 501 marketers aged 18 years and older. Survey participants are referred to as “office workers” and “marketers” respectively.


If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.

We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: