2020 was a chaotic year for all of us. And so far, 2021 is following many of the same patterns. Unfortunately, that means that many of us continue to feel overworked and exhausted, even after the holiday break. PR professionals everywhere, from those at a public relations agency to those working in-house, are feeling the pressures and exhaustion from being always-on and navigating the endless challenges we’ve been presented with. Today, many of us are simply looking for solutions for how to avoid burnout, and how to handle it if it’s already happened. As a Los Angeles PR agency, we have some advice for ways that PR employers and employees can help navigate these trying times.
What is Work Burnout?
Theorized in the 1970’s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, burnout is a severe stress condition that can lead to exhaustion of both the mind and body. Burnout is a real and common problem – in fact, the World Health Organization recently added burnout to its handbook of medical diagnoses, defining it as “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
The WHO lists common symptoms of burnout as:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Burnout and Public Relations
Working in public relations can be fun and rewarding, but as an industry, we are notoriously known for not having an “off-switch.” In 2019, PR was ranked in CareerCast’s Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs. In 2020 especially, many PR professionals struggled with managing the day-to-day climate fluctuations, and navigating the stress and exhaustion that came with trying to balance it all.
With this said, however, it is essential that PR professionals get the necessary rest and relaxation needed to avoid burnout. Here are some steps that PR professionals can take to manage their burnout symptoms.
Managing Burnout as a Public Relations Professional
#1: Get enough rest.
Rest is the number one most important factor in preventing and managing burnout. While most of us associate rest with sleep, there are actually seven types of rest that are essential to mind and body relaxation. Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith breaks down the seven types of rest in her TedTalk, but here are a few ideas for each rest:
- Physical rest: sleep, yoga, stretching, massage
- Mental rest: workday breaks, journaling, therapy
- Sensory rest: unplugging from electronics, closing eyes
- Creative rest: going on nature walks, painting, cooking
- Emotional rest: therapy, being honest with yourself
- Social rest: chatting with a friend or family member, game night
- Spiritual rest: meditation, prayer, community involvement
Prioritizing your rest and doing things that bring you peace and joy are essential to being a productive PR professional. Don’t feel guilty for taking breaks – it’s part of the job!
#2: Manage your workload – and learn to say no
In public relations, it is very common for professionals to wear many hats and take on projects as they come in. However, this can oftentimes lead to professionals taking on more than they can handle, and struggling to manage the workload.
If you find yourself in this situation, have an honest conversation with your boss or your clients about the work you’re doing, and find a way to cut back or rearrange deadlines. Remember that saying no to new projects is perfectly acceptable.
#3: Set boundaries
PR professionals often find themselves checking and answering emails at all hours of the day, even on weekends. Additionally, more often than not, these emails are not emergencies. Alternatively, they simply prevent you from actually getting the rest you need to be stellar at your job. Therefore, learning to set boundaries with your work is essential to avoiding burnout. If at all possible, don’t check email past a certain time. Try not to check your work on the weekends unless there’s an emergency. When you take a vacation or a day off, set an out of office note on your email and actually step out of office to get the rest you need. Trust us – your work will still be there when you get back.
The world of public relations is fun, exciting, and extremely rewarding. However, it can take a toll on your health if you do not manage your stress levels. To learn more about preventing burnout as a PR manager, click here.