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PR workers face stress, long hours and abuse during pandemic

10 August 2020

More than three quarters of PR workers have been working longer than usual hours during the pandemic, with almost four out of five feeling more stressed than usual. Two thirds told the NUJ they have suffered abuse or had to deal with abuse because of their employer's work during the pandemic.

The NUJ's public relations and communications council (PRCC) survey carried out in July found the pandemic has had a significant impact on the work of PR workers, a field of work where many are not union members.

With most now working from home, it was positive to see that most employers had ensured the right equipment was provided. However, while two thirds said they had the screens, chairs, desks or other tools or software they would expect if working in an office, a third did. As the Health and Safety Executive points out, incorrect use of IT and poorly designed workstations or work environments can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain.

While there were only isolated reports of people being asked to deliver unethical work, it remains a concern that some respondents were still feeling pressure to deliver messages that were not accurate and some had been asked to disobey guidance about homeworking. At the same time around half said they suffered abuse or had to deal with abuse because of their employer's work during the pandemic.Typically, this involved social media abuse from the public, but there were also instances of managers, colleagues and clients being abusive.

Line managers were generally given a thumbs up, with four in five rated as providing regular support as working from home became the norm. ACAS is among organisations providing good advice for working from home:

NUJ PRCC chair Phil Morcom said:

"The pandemic has been an extraordinary time for people working in the PR industry. Thousands of people have been working long hours to deliver helpful communications which advise and inform people at a time when there is so much doubt and disinformation. Some have faced redundancy, furloughing or reduced work while others have seen significant increases in their workload as organisations need to communicate with clients, the public and employees.
"It is worrying to see that so many are having to work far beyond expectations while facing abuse and feeling stress. As the likelihood of home working appears likely to continue for many, it is clear PR workers need continued management support and the right resources to protect their health.
"Standing up for yourself in the workplace can be difficult, which is why union membership is so important, offering the chance of representation and back-up when you need your rights respected. Making sure your rights are maintained when there are threats of redundancy or changes to working practices is so much easier if you have effective representation."

Survey responses from 120 people from 20 July to 1 August 2020.

Tags: , pr, pr and communications, pr and communications branch, covid-19, stress, survey