SURVEY NUMBERS: As the pandemic drags on public sector comms mental health is suffering

If you’re working in public sector communications seven months into the COVID-19 outbreak your mental health is suffering, a survey shows.

Almost seven in ten of government, fire, police, NHS and local government communicators say their mental health is worse now than before the pandemic struck.

The data from a survey of almost 300 communicators carried out in October and November 2020 show the long term effects of working under pressure is starting to tell.

However, almost eight out of 10 reported that they still feel as though they are working for the common good – an increase of three per cent compared to June 2020.

In truth, the results are alarming.

But the hidden downsides to the work are increasing. Feeling isolated are 47 per cent of respondants – up from 34 per cent in June.

In addition, 53 per cent said their physical health was worse compared to before the pandemic.

Feedback given anonymously in the survey is also disturbing.

“I do find that I feel anxious about work. I feel stressed constantly looking at everything as a task and feeling failure if not done quickly.”

“My line manager hardly checks in to see if I am ok, the workload has increased and I can’t see an end to it currently.”

“COVID has been my introduction to anxiety. And its getting worse as the months go on, and the professional pressure keeps rising.”

fig 1. How is your mental health compared to working before the pandemic?

Positives remain

However, data collected in October and November do point to a communicators believing in what they were doing. There has been a three per cent increase to 77 per cent of people who feel they are working for the common good.

In addition, 45 per cent of communicators felt as though they were working as part of a team.

So, what does this mean?

When I first surveyed public sector communicators in June it was as a one-off but this has now developed into a tracker survey to plot the progress as the panedmic goes on.

In truth, the results are alarming.

On the surface, people often get through their day and their tasks but this is coming at a price.

I’m no expert, but if you are feeling stressed then ask for help.

If you are a manager, a head of communications or a director of communications this needs to be something you look at. Your staff believe in what they are doing but they are suffering.

If you’re public sector do me a favour. The NHS has a good web page with resources here. Take a look and do something. You are not alone. The survey shows this and the chances are there are people in your team feeling the same.

You could also contact Samaritanscall: 116 123 or email: jo@samaritans.org if you need someone to talk to.

If you are public sector and want to take part in the January iteration of the survey click here.

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