Crisis and major change create uncertainty, anxiety and a tonne of work for comms teams. Most of us working in corporate relations thrive in times of crisis. But the initial adrenaline kick can pretty soon turn into a relentless grind of long, stressful days, and, if you’re not careful, burnout.
We’ve all read the smug LinkedIn influencer’s top tips for staying resilient: yoga, sleep, mindfulness, healthy eating, exercise, not overdoing the alcohol.
And that’s all very well in theory, but the reality is you’re mainlining Krispy Kremes and caffeine, cortisol is at stratospheric levels, a glass or five of wine is all you have the energy for at the end of the day and you can’t remember when you didn’t feel tired.
So what can you do when the hamster wheel is running at full tilt and you can’t see an end to it?
- Be honest with yourself and your team – share how you’re feeling. Recognise that everyone will have bad days – including you - and it’s OK to say so.
- Support each other – ask how people are. Often. Listen and don’t judge or try to fix – sometimes people just need empathy.
- If you’re in comms, you already know how important it is to communicate more, and be as honest as possible, during a time of high uncertainty – tell people what you know, what you don’t currently know, and when you might know more; make sure you walk the talk with your own team. They will repay you in trust.
- In normal times you’d bring in the morale boosters – a dog in the office, cupcakes, healthy snacks or green juices. But as everyone is working remotely, you need to be creative. Don’t do conference calls. Use Zoom or a Google Hangout or another high quality app. In team meetings, take turns to do ‘Show and tell’: your pet, your bookshelf, your shoe collection. It doesn’t matter as long as you are sharing the human stuff.
- Don’t get to burnout stage. Take time out and look out for others displaying burnout symptoms – short tempers, more emotional than usual, poorer quality of work, unreliability.
- As the saying goes, the graveyard is full of indispensable people. Breaks are important. Take the weekend off or time out. And have others’ backs when it’s their turn. If you’re in for a long haul, this is essential for you to get through it.
- Recognise your team and your colleagues for an achievement, for how they’ve supported other team members. When you hit a milestone, celebrate success.
- Make the most of the special people who make you feel good – whether it’s date night with your partner, fun family stuff or chewing the fat on WhatsApp and Messenger groups – get a mental break from work