Consider Mental Health as PR Pros Return to Office

[Editor’s Note: As May is Mental Health Month, we asked Infinite Global’s global COO Isabel Podda and VP Sophie Cikovsky to discuss the importance of mental health awareness in PR as communicators return to the office. Since PR traditionally is in the top 10 of most-stressful occupations, mental health awareness is critical. It’s more so in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.]

Over the last few years the PR industry has come to acknowledge and address the mental health challenges of being a communication professional. The job is undoubtedly stressful: tight deadlines, high client expectations and an unpredictable news cycle drive many to experience anxiety, depression and other serious mental health conditions.

Many companies have implemented changes to promote positive mental health among their teams. Employee Assistant Programs, Mental Health First Aid training, mindfulness activities and a more open dialogue around mental health can and have had a real impact on those who have suffered–too often in silence.

However, the global COVID-19 pandemic forced a whole new way of life on many industries, including PR. This turned PR’s usual mental health challenges into a crisis.

Pandemic Hurts PR Pros’ Mental Health

For example, in October 2020, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in the UK reported that 82 percent of respondents to its Annual Mental Health survey felt the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health.

Uncertainty and fear were at an all-time high and working in an unremittingly bleak news cycle escalated or introduced triggers for serious mental health conditions.

As the months dragged on, many of us were spending 24 hours a day in small, confined spaces that were at once our office, gym and bedroom. This social isolation took its toll, as did the fatigue of endless video calls.

Stress, irritability, poor sleep, depression and burnout became commonplace, even among those who had never experienced poor mental health before.

How did PR leaders respond? In part, they used some of the basics of PR. They listened, adapted and communicated.

Actively engaging with teams about their mental health throughout the pandemic helped leaders recognize and implement changes they wouldn’t have thought to emphasize during more precedented times.

Encouraging team members to take breaks from the news and extended breaks from email were key, as was an open dialogue about available resources for those struggling with mental health.

Above all this moment raised the importance of communicating clearly expectations leaders have of their teams and the various working practices available to promote positive mental health.

As the impact of the global vaccination program facilitates a return to the office, PR will face new challenges. Leaders need to retain some of the benefits staff enjoyed by not being in offices Monday to Friday while, at the same time, providing the collaborative social environment teams miss.

So how do PR leaders and PR pros navigate the coming months?

Listen Well and Act

First, be aware, listen and communicate–one size doesn’t fit all. Some people will relish returning to the office, others will be reluctant and, in some cases, fearful.

It would be unnatural not to feel some apprehension when taking public transport again or being in more crowded environments. Ask your teams what they want and need. Keep listening, communicating and giving people time to adapt. Review office plans to ensure they work for purpose for your teams and create an environment that fosters collaboration.


Second, be flexible; presenteeism is not a route to success. Consider keeping an element of WFH as an option.

Third, recognize that the lessons of 2020 created an incredible opportunity. Without doubt, the pandemic and Black Lives Matter bolstered a positive, necessary drive for change and accountability in the corporate world.

Society continues to take a massive shift and with that businesses need to change. Employees, rightfully, are demanding more about their employers’ impact on the world.

PR firms can have a positive impact on the mental health of companies they represent. Promote Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) elements into how the company operates. In addition, keeping DEI and wider ESG policies and actions moving forward will, in turn, support positive mental health.

Above all, keep the conversation and policies about mental health alive.


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