It's not surprising to PR pros to see ‘PR manager’ regularly listed among the top ten most stressful jobs in the world. Many professionals seem to accept their fate, knowing that when it comes to work-life balance, the latter takes a back seat to the former. But here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. Despite all the stress, deadlines and pressures, it is possible to maintain a healthy balance. Ironically, you just have to work towards it!
This initially sounds like a paradox but a good starting point would be to look at who is responsible for ensuring people have a healthy work-life balance. While companies do hold some responsibility (considering job adverts nowadays almost always highlight a “good work-life balance” as a workplace benefit) we sometimes forget that it doesn’t sit exclusively with them. Employees have to take the initiative in creating this balance too, especially when it comes to working overtime.
A lot of PR professionals start their day early or stay in the office late, eating up their valuable personal time. Businesses are seldom structured to intervene and prevent this from happening, even though good employers genuinely do not encourage this. Similarly, PR simply doesn't work well with hitting the ground running at 9:00AM on the dot and dropping everything you’re doing at 5:30PM to run for the door. Ideally, you’d try and align your time in the office as closely with your agreed working hours as possible. There always has to be a little give and take though – that’s just the nature of our jobs. But it is our own responsibility, not that of our employers, to make sure it’s not just all “give” and no “take”.
Always on, never off
The same goes for communications outside working hours. Today’s digitized society with its mentality of being always reachable is contributing to professional and personal burnout. More than ever before, there is a perceived expectation that PR professionals have to be available 24/7. It is far too easy for employees to succumb to the unspoken expectation of being “always on
” by turning their personal mobile into their work phone or checking and responding to emails
after hours. What might seem like a quick, harmless check in can actually have a detrimental effect on our wellbeing. If we constantly interrupt our personal time off with work, how can we recover from a stressful working day or week? We have to let allow time for our minds to clear.
While tired and most definitely overused, the old mantra that “it’s PR, not ER” still holds true. For most people, there is no need to be always monitoring email. You will be contacted by your client or colleagues in the event of a crisis in more direct ways, like a phone call or a text message, should you need to get involved after hours. More often than not, you won’t. Worrying about something you can’t do anything about will just keep you from getting the rest you need to deal with your regular working days, which are stressful enough as they are.
It would, of course, be delusional to think that working in PR will ever just be a 9-to-5 job. On the other hand, it doesn’t have to be a 24/7 one either. Due to the nature of our profession, which so heavily relies on breaking news and shaping current public discussions, this will simply never be possible. That being said, we need to take control of our own working hours and, consequently, of our own work-life balance. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to draw the line somewhere and stick to it. If we don’t, no one else will for us and the elusive work-life balance will remain just that. Elusive.
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