Published: 18 February 2014

Striking a balance – The comms insider

Working in comms is 24/7, varied and fast paced. Unfortunately this means it can be difficult to switch off the phone, ignore the news and stop wondering how the latest in the papers is going to affect your strategy. You might find yourself secretly checking your phone from the pub toilets, just in case your latest embargo's been broken.

This tendency to let work seep into out-of-hours can be exacerbated in the third sector because of a lack of resource, especially in smaller charities. If you’re a team of one or two, on call every other week, you’re often still at work on evenings and at weekends, at least in some sense. It can put a bit of a strain on your personal life to not be able to guarantee an uninterrupted night out.

I have huge amounts of respect for my colleagues who work a full day, pick up their children and then go back to work once they’re in bed. The parents I work with work harder than anyone I know. But the very nature of having children makes it very difficult to be on-call: if you’re the parent-on-duty you can’t very well nip away from bath time to talk to The Times. This means it’s often left to the people at the early stages of their career to be the out-of-hours contact, and not being available could hinder career progression.

A juggling act

Juggling my current workload with my (relatively quiet) personal life is already a struggle; I’ve no idea how I’d maintain a career and raise a family. I don’t think I’m the only one either – I’ve noticed many people in the third sector who are at an age when I’d expect them to be having children yet who aren’t compared with friends in other fields. Is this something about the third sector and comms particularly? Part of me wonders if this is because of the amount of work that’s expected when you’re employed for a ‘cause’.

It’s very difficult to get the balance right between working hard and securing personal time. On the one hand I want to build my career and support the organisation I work for and believe in. On the other, I’d like to spend more time with my Xbox. At the moment, making that choice on a day-to-day basis is sometimes a bit frustrating but not too difficult. However, I feel like if I want a family I’d have to move to a larger charity to ensure there were enough people to share the load. If I’m not the only one who feels like this, where does it leave comms in smaller, worse resourced organisations? Either they have to rely on staff not having children, or a more sustainable way of managing work-life balance needs to be found. I wonder what other people think about this and how do they manage the work/life balance?


Anonymous, Mystery UK charity

The comms insider is an anonymous comms professional working at a UK charity. S/he wishes to remain incognito so as to be able to write frankly about his/her experiences and opinions.