The London Chamber of Commerce released a report this January
estimating that UK firms lose 80 million working days a year through
workers becoming ill with anxiety or depression, equating to pounds 5.3
billion in lost revenue.
These figures are worrying, but not as worrying as the free helpline the
Chamber set up. Rather than targeting stressed individuals, the helpline
was set up to help companies unable to cope with these problems in their
If it is true that ’companies do not know how to deal with burn-out’, as
the Chamber suggests, then it is time we learnt. PR companies are no
exception - anyone working in the PR business knows it offers an
exciting and fast-moving environment. The downside to this is that it
can also be a stressful environment, unless it is managed carefully.
If we do not take some responsibility for the health of our employees,
we run the risk that their damaged health becomes our damaged
After all, every PR agency is worth no more or less than the value of
its people. PR consultants often enjoy nothing more than the challenge
of a difficult job. But if in rising to that challenge consultants work
stressfully long hours, or eat unhealthy snack food, or skip meals
altogether, their health is in danger.
A caring employer needs to understand the links between poor health,
pressure and stress, and take an enlightened view that stretches beyond
financing traditional medical care once the problems occur. But while
such plans are undoubtedly helpful to staff, they must be secondary to
preventing problems in the first place.
A health and well-being programme may require financial commitment, but
should be considered as essential an investment as money spent on
pitching for new business. It is not the place of the employer to preach
to their staff about a healthy lifestyle. But if they do offer a health
programme, they may be surprised by how many choose to participate.
The best programme will combine traditional and alternative methods.
The value of traditional exercise must not be underestimated as a way to
combat stress and encourage a rounded lifestyle.
Companies should encourage employees to form sports teams: not only is
this fun for those involved, but it also promotes fitness and
Similarly, a company can invest in corporate gym membership, which gives
staff the incentive to exercise. Employees who are fit and healthy will
work at their peak.
There are also less obvious methods that have value. It is easy to
arrange for osteopaths to come into the office and watch employees
posture while working. Often the most subtle adjustments can have
profound effects on back pains and discomfort. Designated relaxation
hours can be built into the working schedule, even if it is only an hour
at the end of the week to unwind from work.
Other alternative approaches include aromatherapy and acupuncture. When
it comes to health, it is worth considering all angles.
We would all like to create happy working environments, but this is
often seen as less important than creating a driven, business-like
This is understandable: we are, after all, businesses. The danger is
that if we place too much emphasis on hard work, we lose sight of the
well-being of our staff. But if our employees are happy and healthy,
staff turnover and absenteeism are reduced and the work they produce is
of a higher quality. Anyone who ignores these benefits may find
themselves losing people and business to those who do not.