FOR many of us who work in Public Relations, the Coronavirus pandemic has created a roller-coaster of emotions and challenges. This industry attracts people who care – they care about their clients, their company, their colleagues and about delivering the best campaigns possible. While it’s been hard to keep working life as ‘normal’ as possible, lockdown has also inspired new ways of working, new hobbies and skills and a newfound appreciation for the simpler things in life and for each other.
Here, some of the Democracy team – both on furlough and working from home – share their thoughts on how life has changed during this time.
Arienne Payani, Junior Media and Influencer Executive
“Being put on furlough in what everyone refers to as ‘these unprecedented times’ or ‘times of uncertainty’, is enough to raise anyone’s anxiety through the roof. But I was quickly reassured that furlough simply meant furlough, the kindest route into protecting a business and everyone’s roles within it. It was an opportunity that in this lifetime I’ll probably never receive again – to dedicate a huge sum of time into bettering myself and becoming the best version of who I am capable of being. Boy, it has been quite the experience so far. The beginning of April to now June, has stirred up a concoction of emotions, both good and bad. Initially, I couldn’t grasp how I would transition from having a stable routine, filled with a hectic work day, to simply no deadlines or tasks. However training has most definitely allowed this time to be of value. I’ve had time to learn a completely new field – digital marketing, one I had no experience of. I actually now understand the basics of SEO, coding and how it optimises web pages too. Can you believe it?”
Rachel Conway, Client Services Manager
“I have to admit that the first month of furlough was exactly what I needed. I chose to return to the safety, comfort, and let’s face it mollycoddling of my parents house in the North East of England, rather than face months in my South Manchester flat without human contact. This has given me breathing space to think about everything both personally and professionally – to really look at my relationships closely, to start learning new things and to take a step back from the constant fast pace that is the PR industry. I’ve actually spent quality time with my parents for the first time in years, listened to podcasts, reached out to people who I hadn’t spoken to for a while and re-discovered the joy in little things. It’s also been the perfect time to brush up on old and new skills that I just never had the time to before. I’ve started sketching again and completed dozens of different online courses covering everything from ‘the fundamentals of SEO’ to ‘the psychology of happiness’. All of which have kept the old grey matter ticking over and will stand me in good stead for when I go back to work as an even better and more well rounded PR person.”
Anna Georgieva, Media and Influencer Executive
“While on paper it’s business as usual and productivity is through the roof, it’s easy for loneliness to creep in. The working-from-home ways we’ve all adopted provide a solution for any work related issue that comes up – live documents, regular calls and being available almost 24/7. But what about the social side of things? We’re all missing the general chat about what’s on the radio, what we’ve got for lunch, what we did last night or weekend plans. We’re even wishing for a real-life meeting – you know, those ones that should have been an email – when a couple of months ago we couldn’t have hated anything more. Even though we’re constantly online, we’ve never been more isolated. We’re craving un-planned conversations, spontaneous chat that turns into jokes we refer to for months to come, the convenience to just turn to someone and speak without texting or sending an invite first. What we once took for granted now feels like the ultimate luxury.”
Sophie Massey, Digital Executive
“Having not lived with my parents since I was 18, it’s safe to say that the lockdown adjustment has been a struggle. But I feel incredibly lucky to have hobbies, awesome parents, amazing friends, and the power of technology. I fall into the lucky group of people still working and having eight hours each day occupied has been a godsend. Having suffered from anxiety for several years, the prospect of lockdown was daunting. Not only have I been incredibly lucky to still be working, but be working with a group of supportive co-workers who check-in daily, ensuring employee care is a priority. Quite quickly, my lockdown routine has formed. I wake up, I work, I finish my working day, I exercise, I cook, I sleep. Weekends are made up of mostly baking, trying new recipes, yoga and self-care. One thing I try to remember is that this is temporary. Normality will resume – no whatever the new normal may be – and we will all reunite with our friends, colleagues and loved ones.”
Tom O’Rourke, Junior Media and Influencer Executive
“Initially, hearing the word “furloughed” felt daunting. What did it mean? Why am I being furloughed but my colleague is not? I had questions, and only naturally I was confused. I went from working 40 hours a week to zero. I had an endless amount of free time. Should I be training? Relaxing? Am I doing enough? It’s easy to feel unsettled, and harder to stay motivated. I decided to focus on the things I usually don’t have the time for. I dusted books off the shelf that I’ve been waiting to read. I rekindled my love for running, and spent most of my time outdoors. The anxiety of the situation soon however crept in and the uncertainty of not knowing when I would return back to work felt overwhelming. Sitting back and watching those around me working tirelessly was difficult. I then felt guilt. Guilty for not doing enough, while others were putting their lives at risk working in hospitals, nursing homes and supermarkets. Also guilt towards my colleagues who were still working. It felt wrong that they were working so hard, whilst I felt I was taking a backseat. But as furloughed staff we must take solace in the fact that we ARE doing our bit – by financially protecting the company we work for so we all have careers to return to post-Covid-19.”
James Scoffin, Media and Influencer Executive
“As someone who is quite extroverted, I loved entering the workplace and jumping in on various conversations, debating different topics and learning valuable tips in the flesh. To have all of this taken away in the blink of an eye was a shock. This sharp contrast in working environments has definitely caused me to overthink scenarios, and get into my own headspace about whether my ideas are good enough, if I’ve said the right thing on calls… the list goes on. It’s turned into, and continues to be a vicious cycle, which I’m trying to break down day by day. However, I’m always eager to get back to thinking positively and I’m thinking about what I can do now to push me outside of my comfort zone to unleash an even better version of myself once lockdown is over. I’ve been thinking about how to support new business, but also increase my experience across digital and content production. I’ve had the time – when I’d usually be out weekend shopping – to complete more digital marketing courses on Google Digital Garage to enhance my knowledge within the sector. I’m continuing to adapt to the ‘new normal’ just like we all are, but my lesson from all of this is to use the time you wouldn’t have usually had to add value. Whether that be adding value to yourself, your workplace or your family. That way, at least we’ll be able to come out of the storm even stronger.”