If you work in PR, you won’t be surprised to find that ‘PR manager’ is regularly listed among the top ten most stressful jobs in the world. Many professionals seem to be resigned to their fate, accepting that when it comes to work-life balance, the former will always dominate over the latter. But here’s the shocker: It doesn’t have to be that way. Despite all the stress, deadlines and pressures, it is possible to maintain a reasonable 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 (not least because job adverts nowadays nearly 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 play an active part in creating this balance too, particularly when it comes to working overtime.
Employees play an active part in creating their own work-life balance, particularly when it comes to working overtime
A lot of PR professionals start their day early or stay in the office late, eating into 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, rocking up at 9:00AM on the dot and dropping everything you’re doing at 5:30PM to run for the door isn’t the solution either. That’s not how PR works. It’s not how most office-based business roles work. 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. Despite all its perks, today’s digitised society with its mentality of being always reachable is taking its toll on our profession and personal wellbeing. 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, and let our minds settle?
If we constantly interrupt our personal time off with work, how can we recover from a stressful working day or week, and let our minds settle?
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. But equally, 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. It is our responsibility to ourselves 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.