Burnout, stress, and mental health issues. These things are often associated with the PR and Communication sector. Professionals are known to work 24X7, constantly chatting on their phone or working on the laptop and jumping from issue to another or from one crisis to another.
The pandemic has worsened the situation. On the one hand, media is going through an existential crisis. On the other, clients are holding back spends or altering the value for money equation. Several journalists moving out and media platforms paring down their operations has impacted the PR and Communication sector. Till the media finds a new business model that promises monetization, employment is likely to decrease further. Finding the right media and the right journalist to pitch seems harder than before. People need to spend more time on prep work. It is not impossible. It has just become more difficult.
WFH a boon or bane?
Several months of work from home is not helping arrest burnout. On the contrary, it may have added more fuel to the fire. Meeting and chatting with colleagues at office, lunches, and dinners with them were stress busters. They provided the antidote to burnout.
Clients’ focus on output rather than outcome has accentuated the problem. In a bid to extract more, some clients load their agency with unreasonable expectations that leads to clocking very long work hours. Work from home is seeming like work all the time from home. Pushing back may not the best option as client teams also are under similar kind of pressure. The last thing one wants today is friction leading to loss of business. To add to this, all those things that one typically does to avoid burnout like taking a vacation is not an option now.
Lack of control
My friend working in a PR consultancy quipped, “I am currently suffering from work from home burnout.” He pointed out that none of the strategies used pre-COVID days, even when their jobs were intense and demanding, like setting up a schedule and sticking it to it, or negotiating workload between team members are helping address burnout. There is a sense of lack of control, and it is frustrating.
India’s digital infrastructure is also not completely geared to support millions of people working from home. Mobile networks are patchy, broadband data networks snap, even in metro cities without any notice. This situation is further annoying, leading to a total lack of control.
Professionals are finding it difficult to manage workload and balancing their work and personal life. Added to it, there is a significant pressure of increased expectation from clients seeking more bang for the buck.
In this difficult phase, empathy goes a long way. None of us can control what is happening at work. What we can do is consciously add more empathy at work. It improves the dynamics and morale of the team. There is no simple answer to all things we are facing today. Being humane and being empathetic doesn’t cost much and works wonders to arrest burnout.
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