As communications professionals, ‘resilience’ is a word often required but rarely discussed when individuals are appointed.
As part of the Future Leader Programme, we joined a virtual session last week with psychologist and ex-communications leader Hayley Lewis on resilience and wellbeing. Hayley began by expanding our understanding on the definition of resilience. I was reassured to be reminded that it is not standardised or static, but something that shifts with us as we go through life’s challenges.
The session continued by outlining different research and theories around stress and resilience. Unfortunately, stress is now categorised as a 21st century epidemic, which explains why the stakes are so high when considering our own wellbeing. We explored models around job demands versus job resources, which was a useful exercise to see how easily the balance can be tipped at work. Reviewing the risks, hazards and complexity of job demands alongside the knowledge, autonomy and feedback required to meet these demands puts into perspective how quickly our resilience can be stretched.
During our session with Hayley, we had the space to break out into groups to hear the experiences of other members of the cohort on building resilience. This helped to provide perspective and highlights that despite covering a range of different roles within the industry, we as communications professionals have many similar experiences. We gained and shared tips on how to keep the scales balanced and the importance of gaining support from senior leadership.
So often as communications professionals we can be asked to support colleagues, teams, or departments with outputs – but less regularly is the consideration given to the outcomes of such activity. Sometimes the outcome is given less thought than the output and the phrase ‘just do some comms’, is something many of us hear in our careers. Although tides are turning, communications can sometimes be seen as a delivery function rather than strategic area and discipline. Although this is changing (and is fortunately not what I experience in my current role), I understand the negative impact this can have on team and individuals’ resilience.
Resilience is something so crucial to get right in the early stages of your career to help maintain positive physical and mental wellbeing. The habits of successful planning and building resilience vary from individual to individual, and as a Future Leaders cohort, we had an opportunity to share what habits we have learnt and benefit from in our own lives; whether it is to do lists, mini breaks or practicing gratitude each day, it is all about finding something that works for you.
For me, it is making sure that I have a clear and clean break between work and home, which has been even more important in the last two and a half years during the global pandemic and becoming a dad! Small habits such as putting my laptop away at the end of the working day and blocking social media app access in the evening have been key practices that help me manage what can be a hectic work/life balance. I do it partly to give myself headspace but also because I recognise the impact of constantly being ‘on’ or connected. I’m aware that this can impact me and my ability to enjoy downtime away from work with friends and family.
Perhaps the most valuable reflection from our session with Hayley was around the role that learning and growth plays in building resilience. I don’t wish to be removed from challenging situations entirely but instead, I can find a happy balance between the ‘comfort’ and ‘fear’ zones.
A powerful quote that resonates with me shared on the day seems a fitting way to end:
If we don’t have the skills to get back up, we may not risk falling.
Matt Geer is Head of Communications and Marketing at West Kent Housing Association and a member of the Future Leaders 2022 cohort.