OPINION: The Big Question - How can you best combat increasing stress levels within PR? This year’s Salary Survey revealed that with 20 per cent of PROs admitting to working on weekends and 74 per cent admitting to suffering from stress; PROs are

HELEN TRIDGELL, National Advertising Benevolence Society

HELEN TRIDGELL, National Advertising Benevolence Society

’The most common causes of stress are to do with lack of consultation

and poor internal communication. People aren’t briefed properly, so they

are left not knowing what is expected of them. The other major cause of

stress is simply the number of different projects people work on, which

stretches them in too many directions. People don’t want to work less,

they just want to be more organised. Flexible working hours allow people

to make space for all the different things they have to do in their

lives and give more control to the individual. But we find that nine

times out of ten talking to someone at work about the problem solves


NEIL BACKWITH, Countrywide Porter Novelli

’In the end it comes down the quality of people who run the organisation

and how much they care about their people. In a healthy culture workers

know where to get relief. People should be encouraged to say ’I can’t

cope’. Managers should apply the necessary resource and support to help

them cope. A fundamental issue is on the failure to get clients to pay

properly. If they don’t, you have to work staff harder and longer. You

are effectively giving away their labour and it shows you don’t value

them properly. The onus is managers to raise the perceived value of what

we do so clients are prepared to pay more.’

LESLEY BREND, The Red Consultancy

’In PR, there is a very fine line between adrenaline which is positive

and stress which is negative. You see people getting stressed through

underwork or feeling under-valued, not just from overwork or long


There’s no pat solution to stress in the PR workplace - although there

are things you can do to make life easier. Abolish silly rules for

example -- like over-zealous dress codes. To my mind, I’d rather

somebody went out and enjoyed themselves in the evening than spent their

time ironing shirts and polishing shoes. Remove unnecessary anxieties

too and breed a culture of honesty and acceptance of human frailty. If

the alarm clock doesn’t go off or a flight back from holiday is delayed,

a person shouldn’t be living in fear of a major bollocking.’

NIGEL STANLEY, Head of communications at the TUC

’Stress in PR agencies simply reflects what is happening in many white

collar industries. We are trapped in a long hours culture. Pressure on

profit margins and from shareholders for quick returns is a large part

of the problem. Sensible managers should have a range of ways of

reducing stress although frankly I am a bit suspicious of people who

think that a quick massage or an aromatherapy session can make up for a

48-hour week. Anyone in PR knows they will have stressful periods and

sharp deadlines.

It’s when they happen twice a day that people feel out of control and

stressed. The best way to combat stress is to manage work loads

properly, to learn when to say no and to give staff as much

responsibility as possible for managing their own work loads.’

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