Why Communicators Are Still Feeling Burned Out + What You Can Do About It

These days, workers in every field are experiencing an uptick in stress and burnout – and internal communicators are no exception. Since the beginning of the pandemic, communicators have been faced with an almost daily onslaught of new challenges and commitments. These challenges continue to take their toll on communicators’ mental health.

Workers are more stressed than ever.

Communicator burnout is part of a national trend. The American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey found that 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. Thirty-six percent reported cognitive weariness; 32% reported emotional exhaustion; and 44% reported physical fatigue—that’s a 38% increase since 2019.

In communication roles, added stress comes from a constant flow of new and complex problems, changing priorities, workplace culture issues, and the inability to truly disconnect from work. Here are a few more reasons we’ve heard from communicators about why they are burning out. If these reasons sound familiar to you, we’ve got a few ideas for how to manage the stress that comes with them, too.

– An increased expectation to communicate “non-corporate” messages

Over the past few years, there’s been added pressure on companies to weigh in on issues of social justice, climate change, reproductive rights, and more. It’s a tricky road, for sure. Yet more and more employees – especially younger generations – now expect their employer to take a position. It’s put internal communicators smack dab in the middle of these issues – which is stressful in and of itself – and has also tremendously increased their workload.

So what can you do?

Upskill: take advantage of conferences and workshops that offer specialized training for communicating in this new environment. That way you can help guide leadership in developing a playbook to tackle these issues in a planful, thoughtful way before the next one rolls around.

– Too many cooks in the kitchen

This problem isn’t new. Communicators have been struggling to limit the number of reviewers and late-breaking edits since the dawn of time! But with the increased volume of work and ad-hoc requests related to COVID, return-to-office policies, diversity issues, etc., it’s just not tenable to let everyone share their two cents, right up to, and sometimes beyond, the publication deadline. Of course, it’s not a bad thing to have a more inclusive mindset when it comes to communications in the workplace. But it is important to recognize that getting something out the door takes more time –and more work—than it used to.

So what can you do?

Lean on these tried-and-true techniques:

  • Create a detailed review schedule from the get-go. Update it regularly and be firm about deadlines.
  • Be explicit about what kind of edits you would like from each reviewer (e.g., please review for accuracy, not style). This article has some great tips.
  • Choose a “final arbiter” from the team who can intervene if there are differing opinions among reviewers.

– The battle of best practices

Just trying to get a message out to the organization can be stressful. For example, as communicators, we know that short, direct reads are more effective than long, detailed explanations. But often, subject matter experts want all of their content to be included, regardless of the medium, the audience, and what we know to be best practices. So emails run to multiple screens and benefits enrollment guides read like novels. And every time this happens, a little voice inside every communicator’s head is silently screaming, “Why are we bothering? No one is going to read this!”

So what can you do?

Arm yourself with data so the next time you recommend a course of action, you’ve got the facts to back it up. Have click-thru stats and open rates at the ready to determine the best vehicle. Conduct regular communication audits or pulse surveys to gauge how employees like to receive communication. With so many employees still working remotely, communication methods are changing rapidly. So make sure you stay on top of the trends.


Stress will always be a part of our lives – and to a certain extent it’s what keeps us motivated to do our best work. But when stress tips into burnout, both mental and physical health can suffer. The demands on communicators are unlikely to diminish anytime soon. But as you deal with these demands, we hope you can use these tips to take back some control and advocate for your own well-being. And if you’re looking for additional support on communications strategy or execution, reach out to The O’Keefe Group for help.