We’ve recently seen that public relations and other comms careers (not to mention journalism and media jobs) are among the most stressful job choices out there. New scientific research from behavioral psychology-focused workplace engagement firm meQuilibrium reveals that high agility in combination with high resilience is a key factor in preventing employee burnout, depression and anxiety—and how you can achieve this calm and efficient state.

“Working in PR means taking in, processing, and making decisions about how and when to communicate enormous volumes of information. What we say and how we say it has consequences, whether we’re an international news network, or the marketing department for a corporation,” Lucy English, Ph.D., VP of Research & Science at meQuilibrium, told Bulldog Reporter.

The study is the first to look at the implications of agility (the ability to quickly react and adapt to changes), and resilience (the ability to rebound productively in challenging situations), in the context of crucial burnout and work-related performance consequences.

“We know that people have limited capacity for new information, and are often already feeling fragile from everything happening in the world. Communications jobs, whether PR, marketing, or other kinds of media, carry with them the stress of moral responsibility—the knowledge that choices are made based on information we share, and lives are impacted,” English added. “Communication is at the hub of social responsibility. In a world full of ambiguity, that’s a heavy burden.”

The survey of 2,000 full-time employed adults found that 40 percent of those surveyed with high agility and low resilience show signs of moderate to severe anxiety and depression, while those with high agility and high resilience had very low anxiety and depression rates, with only 2 percent at risk of these mental health issues.

Combatting PR stress to avoid burnout, depression, anxiety and absenteeism

The research investigated the interaction between resilience and agility and their impact on absenteeism, burnout, engagement and intent to quit, along with stress, anxiety and depression. The study revealed that resilience and agility have a dynamic relationship—resilience combined with agility enhance and reinforce one another to such a degree that they multiply the effect of each.

Beware low resilience, especially with highly agile people

The study also discovered that building agility alone can produce unanticipated negative consequences. Findings revealed that highly agile employees who possessed low resilience had an increased risk of anxiety (+54 percent) and an increased risk of depression (+27 percent). In addition, these agile, yet low resilience employees had an increased absenteeism rate of 5.7 days per year.

Combatting PR stress to avoid burnout, depression, anxiety and absenteeism

Low resilience plus low agility equals high burnout risk

For those with low agility and low resilience, burnout can be a common problem.

meQuilibrium’s research found that 44 percent of those with low resilience and low agility are at risk of burnout, compared with 6 percent of highly resilient and highly agile employees.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized burnout as a syndrome caused by workplace-related stress,” said Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, in a news release. “One of the best ways to protect workers from experiencing burnout is for organizations to take steps to improve both resilience and agility among their employees. In addition to addressing the serious threat of burnout, our study also shows that high resilience and high agility double an employee’s sense of purpose and work engagement.”

Combatting PR stress to avoid burnout, depression, anxiety and absenteeism

Resilience plus agility means employees are less likely to quit

The positive impact of resilience and adaptive capability extends beyond burnout prevention and high performance to turnover intent. The study revealed that resilience and agility work together to double work engagement boost and those employees who are both highly resilient and highly agile are about half as likely as those with low resilience and low agility to leave their job in the next six months.

Combatting PR stress to avoid burnout, depression, anxiety and absenteeism

Resilience and agility signals openness to learning

The study found that people with a combination of high resilience and high agility are 78 percent more likely to seek out a new skill and keep up with relevant innovation and upskilling, compared to only 1 percent of low resilient/low agility employees. In addition, highly resilient people are 28 percent more able to adapt to changing circumstances, possess 30 percent higher creativity and a greater capability to work well with different kinds of people, which is critical for optimal performance.

Download the full report here.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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