The realities of flexible working in Public Relations
14th November 2018
The idea of working from home may fill you with horror, or be your ultimate dream, depending on how much you love office life, and whether your prefer to separate work from your home. For some, the ideal solution is spending the occasional day at home, whilst others prefer to work from home all the time and have no desire to be stuck in an office, and certainly don’t miss the horrors of a daily commute. We speak to PROs from companies who offer the flexibility of working from home, those who work for virtual agencies and freelancers to find out the pros and cons of home working
Flexible office workers
Working from home allows you to focus, but you miss human interaction says Louise Chandler, PR and communications manager at healthcare company Hartford Care: “The working environment can really have an impact on the quality and quantity of work you produce.
“When you’re working from home, you can avoid distractions that normally take place in the office such as colleagues wandering past for a chat and the phones ringing, to name a few! When I work from home, I can enjoy the quiet solitude to focus and tackle some tricky, time-consuming tasks and often it feels good to tick things off the to-do list. I actually think that working from home all of the time isn’t a healthy approach because you miss out on communicating in person.
“I think there are advantages to working in an office environment, surrounded by friendly faces who can help and assist you. Whenever I need to do some problem solving, brainstorming or ask a question – it’s easy to ask for help because sometimes an email (when you work from home), just isn’t the same. In an industry like PR it is good to still have human contact and interactions with the team and the office environment is ideal for that!”
Allowing some work from home is good for the business says Carl Thomson, director at public affairs consultancy Interel: “The key thing is reasonableness. There can be sometimes be a reluctance to allow working from home because of concern that it will be misused, but if you have the proper team and the right degree of trust then that shouldn’t be a worry.
“People lead busy, complicated lives and allowing them to work from home when they have, say, a doctor or dentist appointment in the middle of the day doesn’t just make for a less stressful workplace, but can be more productive, since staff don’t need to travel back into the office during the middle of the day.
“Allowing people to work from home occasionally can also be effective, for example, if they’ve got a big report to prepare and don’t want any distractions. Obviously, you’ll want to monitor to make sure it’s not being abused. It’s not unfair to ask someone who’s working from home to send an outline of what they’ll be doing.
“More senior staff may have childcare emergencies and it’s churlish not to recognise that they may need a bit of flexibility. With regards to childcare, employers should remember that there are also statutory obligations to fairly consider alternative working patterns when requested.”
Views from virtual agencies
Virtual offices allow you to increase your pool of talent says Brendon Craigie, co-founder of agency Tyto PR: "The greatest barrier to having the best talent working for you is location. If you remove the requirement for people to have to be within a commutable distance to an office location, suddenly you multiply your potential pool of talent. At the same time, you also deliver incredible social good by allowing people not to have to decide between whether they want to have an ambitious career or a dream personal life.
“The notion that the office is the centre of gravity is becoming a thing of the past. Rather than choosing the office-first approach, businesses are increasingly opting for the remote-first approach. Our location-agnostic model means we don't mind where people work as we effectively all work remotely. When everyone is remote, no one feels remote."
Parents particularly benefit from the flexibility says Pam Lyddon, founder of agency Bright Star Digital: “I work from home as do the people who work for me, we have a team of freelancers around the country each with their own specialisms aka super powers…
“I employ predominantly parents so it works well for us as a team and a company. I feel I get the best from my team as they are able to be very flexible for their families and in turn it makes for a happy and content work life balance. It’s our 10th year next year and its worked very well, I doubt I will ever change it. It’s the future.”
Virtual workers are less restricted says Vanessa Munnings, founder of agency Leopard Print PR: “Operating a virtual office, working from home and commissioning a team of trusted freelance consultants to work with me, our clients are in no doubt they are always our priority, plus we don’t have any costly overheads, so we can offer better value for money.
“I am also much happier and I know those who work for me are too. We are not restricted by the nine to five. I’ve worked in office before where it’s a competition to see who is in the office first and who leaves last. As long as those who work for me deliver what they need to, when they need to, and they are available for the client when they are needed, we are all happy.
“One might say that a downside of home working is that you are always on duty and it’s true, but in reality, weren’t we always when we were office-based anyway? The media is 24/7 so we are too. But when you have a passion for what you do, how is that a problem? My phone is always on and you may find me working at my desk in my nightwear at obscure times, but `I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Working remotely is win-win, for clients and PROs says Angie Wiles, founder of agency the Difference Collective: “I am unashamedly biased in my belief that the benefits of virtual working are plentiful for consultants – autonomy, empowerment, personal and professional fulfilment, to name but a few. And yet, the benefits of an agile workforce are no less momentous or transformative for clients. Clients get custom-built teams that are passionate, committed, supremely talented and genuinely want to work on their business. Teams of people that are highly productive and for whom quality and timely delivery of the output matters more than the hours of the day or night in which it is created. And far from limiting access, our virtual office is ‘open’ well beyond the standard hours of a traditional agency and through our network, we are able to mobilise senior expertise at very short notice.
“For me, technology now means work is very much an activity not a place! I for one spend far more time Zooming and pinging with teams discussing the great work we are doing together rather than spending hours locked up in an office reached by a long and soul-destroying commute.”
The reason it is so easy to work from home these days is because of the freedom technology gives you to interact with clients and colleagues without actually having to be in the same room. But despite the wonders of virtual technologies, sometimes it is nice to be surrounded by others. As with all things, there is always a catch. Working from home offers you freedom, but it can be lonely sometimes. And there is no IT department on hand when the technology stops working!
Written by Daney Parker+, Editor, PRmoment.com