Like buses you wait for one download for comms wellbeing and then suddenly two come along all at once.
A few weeks back the CIPR published handy guidance for how to avoid stress and burn-out while still doing an effective job.
Now along has come Charity Comms’ own contribution a well-thought through wellbeing guide collated by Kirstie Marrins. You can find it here.
The subject is worth paying attention to. The last CIPR State of the profession report put 67 per cent of public sector people rating the stress they were under at an average of seven out of 10. That was higher than in-house private sector or not-for-profits.
The whole document is worth a read but here are four things that you could easily apply in the public sector.
Sharing the workload
As part of upskilling, we’re also prepared to get stuck into work that doesn’t naturally fall into our job roles – especially during crisis periods. There have been times where teams have supported each other to ease the workload and pressures of dealing with difficult content. For example, taking shifts to monitor social media channels in order to provide a break for colleagues.
I can recall a period of extreme weather when I worked for a council comms team which resulted in our old friend chaos on the road. The incoming messages about gritting were utterly relentless. On their own they were fine. But the weight of people complaining about their side road just got wearing. Sharing the workload in these circumstances was essential.
Practical task: Factor in training for other people and allow them to monitor and respond to social media during quiet times. Book it in. Don’t wait for it to be quiet.
Having a framework to respond
One good tip when handling tricky incoming queries the guidance suggests is having a framework. In other words, three stages to consider. For them, this is research, respond, review.
So, try and prepare for a tricky campaign by looking into the possible issues. Then before responding count to 10 and respond drawing on this research. The advice of taking a few moments to walk in their shoes is a really good one. Finally, review what you’ve done when things have calmed down.
The 1,200 things local government does makes this tricky but I think the approach can be replicated in the public sector.
When you respond, you’ll need to consider how to balance showing understanding, whilst also giving a response appropriate for your organisation.
You’ll need to balance offering support or information whilst also managing expectations on what you can realistically say. Drawing upon position statements and key messages can be helpful when handling issues, but this will need to avoid sounding too ‘corporate’.
Practical task: what would your framework look like?
Be your own cheerleader
There’s some good tips in the approach about your own resilience. Think about meditating, for example.
We can all be overly critical of ourselves. So the idea of celebrating something you’ve done well strikes a chord.
Be your own cheerleader.
In contrast to listening to your inner critic, being your own cheerleader involves talking to yourself regularly in a positive way. A key resilience building strategy, as identified by Dr Rick Hanson, is to champion yourself the moment after you’ve achieved something great. According to his research, this builds new neural pathways which over time lead to a greater sense of wellbeing and high self-esteem.
Practical task: It wonder what each member of the team’s shining moment would be? And wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of celebrating the really small wins in the team?
Talking about mental health
If there’s one part of the Charity Comms advice that really shines then its in the area of talking about mental health.
There’s been a stack of things written about ‘it’s okay not to be okay’ and the general landscape feels as though it is moving. But how to actually tackle the subject? Here the approach excels. Importantly, the guidance can be deployed by colleagues just as much as line managers. In fact, in some ways there’s probably a greater value in members of the team raising the subject.
Often, it’s easier to talk side by side, rather than face-to-face as it feels more informal. You could suggest going for a walk outside the office so you’re walking side by side. Being in a neutral surrounding could help them to be more open to talking about mental health away from other colleagues.
There’s also advice on how to talk to a colleague returning after a period of mental health. Go look it up.
Picture credit: Jeppestown / Flickr