SURVEY RESULTS: Overworked, understaffed and working with print less. That’s the public sector in 2023

So, what does the new post-pandemic landscape look like for public sector people?

Have things improved? Or has the clock turned back to the time before hands, face and space?

In a survey with my chum Sadie at e-shot we asked the question and I’ve been fascinated to sift through the answers.

You can get a copy of the results as a download here.

In summary, COVID may have calmed but the world has moved on. We have got more digital and less print. COVID saw teams work around the clock to produce results. But as the panic has subsided that work ethic is now demanded for many as the new normal. That’s hard. 

What’s also clear is that there is no one universal experience. What’s one person’s lived experience is not always someone else’s life.

Here’s some other findings. 

The biggest problem? A lack of time

It doesn’t surprise me 93 per cent of people in the survey said that a lack of time was a problem. Austerity cut teams. Technology ramped up the demand. COVID made people burn out.

A lack of budget came in second with a lack of staff close behind. Fourth came unrealistic expectations. AI and the evolution of tools scored zero on the list. I wonder how long that lasts for.  

The long tail of COVID recedes

Three years after it first broke across the world the biggest pandemic for a century has had an impact. But as things return to normal the impact recedes with almost two thirds saying COVID has had a bit of an impact with a quarter saying it hasn’t had an impact. Just over one in ten say it’s had a dramatic impact. 

COVID accelerated the shift away from print

Lockdown put a foot on the peddle in the move away from from print. “The pandemic enabled us to find new ways of reaching our audiences,” as one said. E-newsletters were introduced for the first time. 

Unrealistic expectations

Good communications looks effortless. No wonder people think we just sprinkle fairy dust. COVID ramped up deadlines and the danger is that people think work round the clock emergency is now the norm.

The survey said 58 per cent face this problem. 


Public relations is already one of the most stressed professions. For the public sector, COVID made that worse and as that eased we walked straight into political turbulence. We’re not over that. 

The survey said 65 per said agreed or strongly agreed that stress was a problem.


Three quarters sometimes evaluate, a fifth always do while a brave five per cent never do. 

No surprises that evaluation is an issue. Like fixing the roof, it’s the guilty secret of public sector communications. We knows it needs to be done but there’s rarely enough time because the ‘to do’ list keeps growing. That’s understandable. But dangerous.

Email tops the list of most effective channels 

And the winner is… email.

Followed by Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

No surprises email and Facebook are so important. Email tops the list as the Cinderella channel quietly pulling in the numbers. It’s been a long time since Facebook was hip. Like old slippers they’re comfy and effective rather than cool.

What is surprising is LinkedIn is third. Many places have an unloved corporate page and for me this signals time to put more spadework inti that corner of the allotment. 

Trends are not all positive 

Frustration at being overworked and understaffed shines through as a trend.

There’s a lot of frustration and unhappiness that’s filtering through and showing itself as abuse and snark online.

Digital communications continues to be more important and enlightened organisations are even developing two way conversations. Print is falling away. But there’s also the sense of an urban and rural split. Cities are embracing TikTok. Rural areas are reluctant.

Look more deeply, the underlying impact of COVID is not positive. The impact of Barnard Castle and the partygate may have driven a wedge between Government and the public that may be a problem. Trust in Government has been damaged, one respondent said. 

 “If we ever had to try and persuade people to lockdown again I do not think we would get a good response or take up of advice,” one said.

Fake news has been detected more often by people.

That’s the survey. How are you?

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