Care Instructions for Communicators

Six Care Instructions for Communicators During a Year of Crisis

June 29, 2020

Six Care Instructions for Communicators During a Year of Crisis

There is no doubt that 2020 will leave a mental toll on many. The combined stress of the pandemic, the racial injustice reckoning, financial pressures, record unemployment, and the blending of our work and home lives like never before, are creating high levels of anxiety, burnout, instability and even depression.

According to a recent SHRM survey of U.S. workers nationwide, employees are feeling the pressure. Forty-one percent of employees say they feel burned out from their work; 45% say they feel emotionally drained; 44% say they feel “used up at the end of their work day;” and 23% report often feeling “down, depressed or hopeless.”

Communicators face an even tougher reality. With this year’s relentless wave of one crisis after another, communication has become 24/7 and is stretching communication teams more than ever before — turning an already busy function into a non-stop crisis-response machine, with many communicators feeling like they can’t keep up.

It’s uniquely challenging for communicators to maintain a healthy emotional state, given that immersion in negative news is an inherent part of the job. Combine this with longer hours, elder and child care challenges, or separation from loved ones, and it’s easy to see why some, if not all, communication professionals may be suffering from stress or anxiety.

We’re all familiar with the usual strategies for handling stress, from meditating to eating well or exercising and getting more sleep. All of these are important, but what else can you do? Here are our recommended care instructions for communicators during this extraordinary year of crisis.

Care Instructions for Communicators

Reaffirm your why

Why are you in the communication profession? When you’re in the midst of a storm, mental health experts recommend reminding yourself of your purpose. What’s your passion for communication? Maybe it’s about keeping employees engaged and fulfilled at work. Or perhaps you love enabling leaders to perform at their best. Or maybe the art of storytelling and amplifying voices get you excited. Reflect on your mission and keep it front and center, especially when you’re wondering whether it’s all worth it.

Identify your tipping point

You can’t solve a problem until you admit you have one. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can start to creep up on us, making it difficult to notice until we’re close to burnout. Be aware of the warning signs, whether it’s an inability to concentrate, constant worry or a tendency to see only the negative. Or perhaps it’s increased agitation, irritability or isolation. Changes in behavior, such as eating or sleeping significantly more or less than normal, procrastinating on responsibilities, withdrawing from others or finding yourself unable to take a break from the negative news cycle, can also be signs of stress. Focus on self-awareness, so you know when you might need to get help.

Rethink your strategy on how to ask for help

Faced with reduced budgets and hiring freezes, many communication teams are severely under-resourced and need extra help. If you’ve asked your boss for additional resources before and have been turned down, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach. Complaining rarely works. Instead, consider what matters most to your boss and how she or he is being measured. Take a thoughtful, strategic and data-backed approach. Clearly and calmly explain what you need and the value that it will bring to your executive and to the organization, focusing on what you will be able to accomplish with the additional resources.

Revamp the command center

Communication professionals love the adrenaline of being at the center of the action. We feel essential, in the know and needed. But feeling needed for months on end can get old. It’s time to create a sustainable approach to your organization’s communication infrastructure so your team can work in healthy ways. This might mean setting up a command center with clearly defined shifts to ensure critical coverage and allow breaks for team members, robust document-sharing processes so everyone is in the know and can make informed decisions even when you’re not there, and a centralized self-service hub so the team doesn’t have to be on 24/7.

Lean on your network

Stress management experts emphasize the importance of having a safety net — a trusted network of support that you can tap into during times of need. This is especially key for communication professionals. Commit to staying actively connected with other senior communication leaders, and invest the time so you can leverage best practices, stay one step ahead of your execs and avoid reinventing the wheel. The ROI Partner Group and ROI Forums are a great way to get started on this.

Get motivated with micro-finish lines

Communication professionals often get stuck in endless review cycles or political spin, so it can feel like we’re going nowhere. But human beings need to feel a sense of progress in order to thrive during times of crisis. Harvard professor Teresa Amabile has found that the single most important thing needed to boost our mood is to make progress on meaningful work. Make sure you and your team can experience the dopamine effect of crossing a mini-finish line every day. For example, set little milestones to monitor forward motion, document upward trends in leader visibility and track employee engagement on key content.


Linda Pederson ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Linda Pederson

Vice President, Strategist

Linda is a seasoned communications professional with two decades of experience in internal and external communications, media relations, crisis management, and more. She excels in crafting clear and effective communication strategies, helping leaders simplify their message and engage both employees and stakeholders.

Lesli Gee ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Lesli Gee

Executive Vice President

A founding member of ROI, Lesli is an expert at change management and HR comms expert with more than two decades helping executives design and execute large-scale change initiatives to strengthen organizational culture, streamline processes and improve performance. A 27-time marathon runner and charity fundraiser, she has helped numerous Fortune 500 companies achieve their business goals.