Always on work culture biggest cause of stress in PR : India Mental Health Survey

Stress, as defined in Psychology is a feeling of strain and pressure. This could be an outcome of physical or emotional stimuli, either real or perceived. In small doses, stress could actually be beneficial, even desired. It could lead to the generation of great ideas, achievement and adaptation to the requirements of the environment. 

More recently, I was part of a discussion that brought to light that ‘stress’ has become that catch-all phrase used to describe a variety of emotions, including anger, sadness, frustration, etc. – but that’s a discussion for another day.

Situations that generate extreme stress over extended periods of time have a negative impact on our lives, both at work and personally. Of the 185 Communications professionals in India who participated in a first of its kind survey on mental health, 47% reported that the ‘always on’ culture is a major reason for work-related stress. 

This is corroborated by the fact that 65% of the respondents reported a lack of sleep and about 28% work more than 45 hours. A small percentage go beyond an unreal 91 hours week – an average of 18.5 hours per day in a 5-day week! A close second on the list of stressors, at 42%, is unrealistic deadlines and expectations from colleagues, which came as a bit of a surprise.

Those of us who have worked in the communications industry, understand some of the unrealistic deadlines and requirements that come from clients – on the survey, this was lower at 39%.  

It appears that our own colleagues are keeping stress levels high with irrational demands. Or could it be that they are simply passing on the pressure that they face? Often, some of us who lead teams simply pass on demands – often unreasonable – of a client or manager to those who report to us, without applying filters related to reason or logic.

78% of the respondents have a master’s degree – we are a well-educated lot! Under-utilisation of skills coupled with boring and repetitive work creates stress for 40% of the respondents. The industry appears to be recruiting people who are more qualified than the job demands. I have often heard younger colleagues bemoan the repetitive, mindless nature of the work they do, including creating coverage reports and updating media lists. 28% reported a lack of clarity about their specific role. In this age of the smart millennial and heightened use of technology, is there a way to create more interesting roles for our younger colleagues?

The unmanageable workload came in at 28%, again it was a surprise, considering how often we speak about the huge burden of work that we all bear. It appears that most of our energy is spent managing the people part of the business, rather than the business itself. 

As someone who has spent almost two and a half decades in Communication, is there a way for me to make the life of my colleagues easier? How can I sensitise my senior leadership to the needs of a newbie? Is there a way to equip the young ‘uns with tools that would help them tackle stressful situations?

If you have any suggestions or feedback about stress management and well being at work do give a shout, using #MentalHealthMatters to @ArchanaMuthappa who conducted this survey. You can also ping @PRmomentIndia with your views.

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