With 89% of PR and communications experiencing issues with mental wellbeing, how can we implement change within our own organisations to find a healthier way of working through, and with, our vulnerabilities? Ronan Harrington of Alter Ego and Extinction Rebellion shared some of his ideas for change during ‘New Work Needs Inner Work’ at the Performance In Live, sister show to Influencer Marketing Live.
‘Overwhelmed is the default’, is how Ronan Harrington summed up work in the PR and marketing industry during his keynote speech. Looking out into an audience of communications professionals, Ronan proposed a new way of working based on emotional honesty and growing comfortable with uncertainty.
Marketers and PRs use stories and each of us brings aspects of our own story to our work, whether or not we mean to. Ronan told of childhood experiences being what drives him in his career and the importance of saying ‘Yes, and’ to each challenge that arises.
For him, vulnerability is a natural part of being a creative and shouldn’t be shied away from or hidden. Rerouting this scary aspect of work into honest and healthy office interactions is what will change experiences on this career path for the better.
Pretending traditional office hierarchies are normal ‘isn’t normal’
Hierarchy was pinpointed by Ronan as a ‘way of hiding’ for many workers in the world of PR and marketing – a way to avoid making decisions and staying in a space of self-doubt. A move to circular structures rather than a top-down approach was proposed – a formula Extinction Rebellion has adopted for its own organisation.
Whether the commuters in the audience agreed with the format some of the group’s recent protests took (Ronan himself acknowledged a few of the examples that may have impacted those in the room ‘build a culture where you can acknowledge mistakes and grow through them’), this structure is one that aims to encourage a less-toxic environment and accountability without blame.
Moving towards a ‘culture of wholeness and self-management’
The advocation of self-organisation and regular emotional check-ins with colleagues was met with an anonymous audience question about the importance of funding for these efforts – how can every company afford to bring in consultants for making a happier and mentally healthier environment for their employees, or therapists for regular check-ins during stressful projects?
Surveys and co-counselling within teams was recommended in response – small things that acknowledge the stresses and vulnerabilities of working in this creative sector and enable people to work through and perhaps be inspired by them.