TUESDAY 11 OCT 2022 3:29 PM


Following World Mental Health Day this week, Lottie Bazley, senior strategic internal communications adviser at Staffbase, explores the increasingly crucial relationship between internal comms and wellbeing.

Post-pandemic, amid a cost-of-living crisis and widespread disengagement among employees, internal comms professionals are more frequently having to communicate about, and comment on, socio-political issues. We’ve stepped into the role of trusted advisor, and, in turn, we’ve demonstrated our talent, gained credibility, and proven that we can have hard conversations.

In fact, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, people now trust businesses more than NGOs, the government and the media, in that order. This means when something ‘big’ happens in the world, there’s an expectation on businesses (and the employer) to talk about it in an unbiased and empathetic way. With this in mind, internal communicators have more responsibility than ever before, especially when it comes to reacting to global issues that might not necessarily affect the business they work for, but certainly impact the people that work there. 

So, what can IC professionals do to adapt to this new role? We can encourage leaders not to shy away from talking about these topics, whether that be the cost-of-living crisis or Roe vs. Wade. We can support HR teams with communicating new policies and help to direct employees to wellbeing programmes. We can facilitate conversations with employees, listen to them and feed their thoughts back to senior leadership. And, finally, we can educate ourselves on external factors and their potential consequences, so that we are speaking from a place of knowledge in an empathetic way. 

But these are heavy issues to communicate when you, and those in your circle, are also affected by them. According to a report, almost half of comms professionals have considered leaving their job due to their mental wellbeing, with over a third experiencing a decline in mental health since March 2020. Put simply, many IC professionals are feeling burnt out. They haven’t had a break in the last few years – a direct result of COVID-19 and communicating around business restructuring and redundancies.

While internal comms is a fulfilling and fun role, there’s no escaping from the fact that communicating bad news can be difficult. The nature of internal comms is to consider how messages will land, which means we have a tendency to put other people’s thoughts and feelings ahead of our own. Yet the reality is that, to continue doing what we love to a standard that makes us proud, we also need to protect our own mental health. An important first step is being mindful about what burnout looks like for each one of us, whether that’s feeling tired or drained most of the time or procrastinating and taking longer to get things done. It’s crucial to put boundaries in place, such as communicating about how you are feeling and speaking up when you have taken on too much. Realising that your time and resources are finite is key. 

Having a community for IC professionals will help people feel less alone and give them an opportunity to speak openly about the challenges they are facing. This is why at Staffbase we decided to create a ‘Comms-Unity’ channel to give IC professionals a platform to talk about how they are communicating difficult topics, while dealing with their personal impact. 

Finally: put on your oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. This means taking time for yourself to understand how you feel about external issues before bringing them up with others. It will help you communicate in an honest and authentic way. And don’t forget to celebrate the wins because there are many.