You can't pour from an empty jug webinar summary

March 19, 2020

On Tuesday 17 March committee members Padraic Knox, Leanne Ehren were joined by Sally Northeast to host our ‘Communicators, you can’t pour from an empty jug’ webinar. The trio provided some top tips about looking after your mental health and the wellbeing of your communication teams.

You can check out the full webinar here and also check out our YouTube channel where Leanne has shared her seven top tips for communicators to manage their wellbeing during a crisis.

Catriona Fountain, Communications consultant of Lunar Comms joined the webinar and shares herakeaways.

‘We started off with Leanne Ehren giving us her top tips to stay mentally well from her experience working through a crisis:

Have a plan, no matter how sketchy. It doesn’t have to be perfectly written, it might even just be a mind map on a piece of A4, but have a plan.

1.Think about team resilience – we all need rest, food and exercise. If you can, split your team into three and have one part doing business as usual, one part on the crisis and one part off. That way those dealing with the crisis have downtime planned in.
2. Think about how long are on call. During normal times it may be days or even weeks, but when you are dealing with a crisis you will get adrenaline spikes which will take a toll on your mental and physical health, so think about the length of on-call duties.
3.You (and others) need to lead and guide, not just in the business sense. For the sake of your mental health, you need to lead on things like eating well, keeping up with your exercise, listening properly, taking breaks. If you have enough people allocate them each a role to be responsible for.
4.Make sure someone is looking at lessons learned so you can celebrate as a team when things go well. In times cr crisis, celebrating something positive will really help.
5.Have a vent space – a safe space where there is no judgement and people can sound off a bit. We are all human and you and your team will need somewhere to share their frustrations safely.
6. Handover to someone properly – this is really important. You should never have to be the one fail-safe person dealing with everything. If that is you, find someone who you can brief to hand over to.

We then heard from Sally Northeast, who added some further thoughts:

1.Take regular breaks – don’t be that person who has been flat out from dawn till dusk (and beyond!).
2.Notice how you’re feeling and consider how others are feeling. Are you noticing changes in behaviour, for example, are people getting snappier or more introverted. Talk to them and ask them, but don’t simply ask them once – if you think they are struggling then they probably are, so do what you can to find support.
3. Model the behaviour you want to see in a leader and ask your team what this looks like. Meet people to give something to them rather than to get something from them. And bring cake – when you eat together with you bond.
4. Maintain connectivity and creativity. If you can’t all be in the office together, then find other ways of keeping that connection such as virtual brainstorming or video chats.
5. This can even extend to lunch breaks – if your technology allows it (eg multi-way Skype call) then why not have a virtual team lunch break? Your cats and dogs will thank you for it! This is a great way to humanise what we are going through and maintain connections with colleagues.
6. Get fresh air – if you can go for a walk (leaving 2 metres between you and others!) but if not, at least get outside in your garden if you can.
7. Think about your breathing to keep you calm – use the 7/11 method so that you breathe in for a shorter time than you breathe out.
8. Plan to sleep well – there’s lots of advice about supporting good sleep eg exercise, limiting alcohol, reading a book, quiet music etc, but work out what works for you and make a conscious effort of doing all you can to sleep well.

I’d like to thank CIPR Inside for making this available to everyone and to Padraic, Leanne and Sally for giving up their time, particularly when they are working so hard. One of the silver linings in this crisis is how much sharing has gone on across all sectors. Keep it up comms people, you are all doing a really great job!’