Wellbeing in a communications team during a crisis is not often talked about; although, with the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more organisations are starting to focus on it. We’re showing you how to support your team’s wellbeing during a crisis, from our webinar It’s Ok to Not Be Ok: Maintaining Team Wellbeing in a Crisis!
How a Crisis Affects Communications Teams
People involved in a crisis are usually affected in three different ways; physically, emotionally and psychologically. Physical impacts are generally visible, as well as emotional effects being easier to spot. In contrast, psychological consequences are much harder to identify. Psychological trauma often leads to more severe issues, including PTSD, anxiety and depression, so quick identification is the key to getting the right support.
Comms teams are usually further down the list when it comes to prioritising wellbeing during a crisis. Often, they are not at the centre of the crisis itself; although they will receive detailed information which can be just as harmful. It’s no surprise that working in PR is known as one of the most stressful professions!
Recognising the Impact
The sooner you can identify someone who is struggling, the faster they can receive the help they need to recover and move forward. So what can you do for your team?
- Provide training: Training colleagues on how to spot someone who is struggling means that more people in the organisation know what to look out for.
- Create wellbeing plans: Just like training and development plans, creating a wellbeing plan helps you to identify what your team needs and where the gaps are.
- Plan for scaling up: When a crisis hits, your team will need your wellbeing processes more than ever. Make sure that you can scale up your wellbeing plans when your team need it the most.
- Remove the stigma: Create an environment where team members are comfortable enough to open up about their issues, and understand that it’s not a sign of weakness.
The Wellbeing Checklist
By putting systems in place as part of a wellbeing plan, looking after your team’s mental health will become second-nature. Start creating an effective wellbeing plan for your organisation straight away:
- Consequence management: Just like dropping a pebble in a pond, people at the centre of the crisis will be affected the most; but they’re not the only people who may need support. As you look to teams further out from the crisis, many will still be affected in lesser degrees. It’s essential to understand this concept to be able to identify groups that need help as a priority.
- Signpost resources: In all internal communications, signpost helpful resources to your team to help them through.
- Mirror support to victims: Just like victims of a crisis will need support, teams dealing with the crisis will also need the same level of support.
Moving to Recovery
The road to recovery from a crisis is a long one. Even when you reach the recovery stage, you must be prepared to adjust to the new normal, post-crisis. The best way to overcome these uncomfortable changes is to find something that drives you and keeps you motivated, to keep you uplifted to make it through to normality.
Even once the crisis is over, and things are back to normal, the psychological trauma will not disappear. It is essential to stay vigilant and recognise potential impacts on teams in the future; known as trigger points. These can include:
- Key dates related to the crisis
- Publications such as news articles and media coverage.
- Events, inquiries, investigations and inquests.
- Similar crises that happen elsewhere.
- Vicarious links: These are very difficult to plan for and can crop up anywhere, so it’s essential to recognise the signs and act quickly.
- Statistics: While they’re not an emotional trigger, they may still have an impact if a colleague sees the crisis statistics.
For Your Team’s Crisis Wellbeing
There are a few important takeaways that you can implement right away into your crisis communications plan:
- Remember to always speak out when you need help, and ingrain that wellbeing element into all crisis communications.
- Remove the stigma around speaking out: your team needs to feel comfortable enough to talk to someone about when they’re having an issue.
- Identify the right support networks around you. Most of the time, people don’t want to burden friends and family with what they’re feeling from a crisis; so being signposted to professional help and support is vital.
- Build resilience to the uncertainty as a crisis wears on. Make sure you take time to switch off from work.
- Ask for help, and then take it when it’s offered to you. We’re not all experts at everything, and there is a lot of advice out there that we can make use of.
- It’s ok to not be ok. Speaking out and asking for help doesn’t make you less of a person, it makes you more of a person for owning up to needing help.
While the current COVID-19 crisis is affecting all of us in huge ways, some organisations will be affected more, and some communications teams will need extra help and support. Remember that help and support is available, and you are not alone.
Catch the full recording of the webinar on how to implement a wellbeing plan into your crisis communications plan and how to support your team right through the crisis.