From the editor-in-chief: Time to talk positively about the industry's mental health

PRWeek is shining a light on health and wellbeing in this new year, but our focus won't stop there.

Happy New Year. Or is it? Apologies if that sounds a tad downbeat. I pose that question because PRWeek’s focus at the beginning of 2019 is on health and wellbeing, and one senses heightened concerns over mental health in a business renowned for its pressure. Of course one person’s challenge or excitement is another person’s stress and unhappiness, but our research shows that managers could be more sensitive to the happiness of their colleagues and employees. I would argue in the long run it will pay off financially.

Is the mooted epidemic of mental ill-health a result of these uncertain political times? Of social media? Of Brexit? Well none of this helps, but employee stress is really an ever-growing problem of trying to do more work, to create better outcomes, with less and less resource; it’s just that today we are, rightly, more acutely aware of the consequences.

On a positive note, PRWeek is championing those PR firms that have made significant headway addressing this issue. Interestingly, many of these companies are performing well financially in our league tables. Chicken or egg? It makes sense that a happier workforce leads to a more profitable business.

Encouragingly, the latest PRWeek/PRCA survey on the industry’s mental health does suggest that businesses are taking the issue more seriously and, crucially, that employees feel more listened-to than last time we polled them. But equally it’s apparent there’s a long way to go.

Too many people working in PR still feel isolated, ignored, even exploited. So it’s incumbent on all professionals to become more acutely aware of the wellbeing of those around them.

We are not talking necessarily about specific ‘initiatives’. Many organisations tend to take a ‘tick-box’ approach to issues like this, but the better ones embed it in their culture. And so often this culture is set by the founder or CEO.

There should be an acceptance that expectations on employees are more clearly defined and managed; that colleagues are appraised more holistically; that unnecessary stress is avoided by being more considerate. Agency bosses also have responsibility to protect their staff from over-demanding clients.

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PRWeek is challenging the PR industry to talk positively about mental health. We will continue to champion good practice, and criticise poor practice where we see it. We’ll continue to monitor mental wellbeing through the year, culminating in repeating our mental health survey in 12 months’ time. Then, hopefully, we can welcome in an even happier new year.

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