ICCO Global Pulse Check reveals PR industry’s mental health in lockdown

Fewer than half of PR practitioners feel comfortable talking about mental health issues with HR or managers, a global pulse check from ICCO and Question and Retain reveals. However, 62% are aware of support available in their organisation, should they need it. More than half rate their work-life balance as quite good or excellent, and 86% are satisfied with the communication from their leadership under lockdown conditions. The average rating of respondents’ own mental health was 7.07/10.

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Work-life balance

Reasons given for a positive work-life balance under current conditions tend to refer to reduced time spent commuting and greater flexibility to juggle work and childcare commitments; as well as the ability to enjoy personal interests and hobbies. Reasons for a negative work-life balance cite a difficulty to ‘switch off’ when working and living in the same space and thus working longer hours and dealing with increased stress. Some respondents noted the disconnect from colleagues resulting in a difficulty to work on creativity and new ideas.

Communication from leadership

Those satisfied with communication from their leadership cite regular team meetings, coherent emails communicating major changes from leaders, and weekly verbal updates from a CEO or Managing Director. Those less satisfied cite a lack of transparency on major decisions, often from a wider group or global fragmented company structure.

Personal mental health rating

As well as feeling isolated, those rating their own mental health as low refer to uncertainty and fear of losing their job; feeling taken advantage of; being vulnerable or burnt out; working long hours; as well as feeling guilty or anxious about ‘saying no’ to additional hours. Those ranking their mental health more highly refer to job security; having people to talk with; , having good personal coping strategies; feeling less burnt out with a reduction of work or without a commute; and greater flexibility as a result of working from home.

Support available

Respondents refer to free mental health helpline; online resources; and support from HR within their agencies as being readily available. 31% do not know of any support available in their agency.

Just under half of respondents would feel comfortable or very comfortable speaking about mental health issues with HR or a line manager, suggesting that whilst the support is available and policies are in place, a stigma persists.

The overall picture demonstrates that the impact of covid-19 is hugely varied depending on circumstance. A key lesson for agencies is to ensure that communication from the very top filters down through global offices, and to create conditions in which staff feel more comfortable talking about their issues to HR, a line manager or a dedicated officer within the organisation.

ICCO Chief Executive Francis Ingham said:

“Our industry is facing a period of incredible stress at every level, and in every region of the world right now. While agency heads are working hard to meet this challenge, it is hardly surprisingly that the results are not perfect -quite frankly, no response ever could be. But the encouraging thing I see is that leaders are rising to this challenge; acknowledging the inevitable issues; and doing their best to put their employees’ wellbeing right at the top of their agenda”

Nitin Mantri, ICCO President said:

“It is encouraging to know that most PR firms have prioritised the mental wellness of their people and invested in purposeful employee engagement. The results have also made it clear that the crisis will have a long-term impact on the way we work. Nearly 90% of the respondents have expressed satisfaction with their work-life balance because they are getting to save time on daily commute and are successfully juggling professional and personal commitments”.

Annabel Dunstan, CEO and Founder, Q&R, commented:

“Despite huge advancements in the way mental health is discussed over the past five years, our research continues to demonstrate that there is still a stigma making it more difficult than reporting a physical ailment. PR and communications’ leadership teams must continue to take a lead on reducing the stigma. Increasingly clients take note of their agency’s attitudes to mental health and employee wellbeing, which gives an additional incentive to make further progress.”