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Happiness at work: What are the perks that make you smile?

As 'International Week of Happiness at Work’ draws to a close, we asked PR employers what they do to make their offices a happy place for their employees, and we also asked PR people what puts a smile on their faces. From flexible working to an office dog, here are a few of PR people’s favourite things…

Perks that make people happy

From Kam White, head of people and culture, EMEA and Australia, at communications agency Hotwire:

Getting everyone together

“We all come together every year for our Hotwire ‘Bootcamp’ in a European city. The whole of the Hotwire workforce, even those in the US and Australia offices, travel to a destination for a week of team building, well-being talks and of course a party.

“This annual event is at the core of the company culture, a celebration of our work and achievements from the year. And with over 60% of our clients shared globally, it’s a great opportunity to build relationships. This year was a trip to Dublin, where we hired an entire hostel for the week. It’s something that everyone who works at Hotwire looks forward to and has lasting memories from.”

Feel-good benefits

“Other initiatives in daily life include Friday drinks and an early finish, Thoughtful Working – Hotwire’s own flexible working policy, a free Headspace account for meditation and a well-being payment for employees to spend on gym memberships and spa days. And with 95% of the team in the London office stating that they are happy with the work environment, happiness at work is something we pride ourselves on.”

From Rebecca Jackson, account director at PR agency Definition:

A wellbeing programme

“As well as the agency norms like unlimited healthy office snacks and Friday beers on the company, Definition takes employee happiness and our positive culture very seriously. This includes a £500 a year wellbeing and development programme, giving employees the opportunity to learn new skills and improve their health and wellness.”

Proper recognition

“Each month, the team comes together to celebrate each others’ achievements with our monthly WOW Awards, held in both our Leeds and London offices. These are an opportunity to showcase good work within the team, share ideas and encourage a positive culture of celebrating success, with the winners taking home cash prizes.”


“Everyone gets an allocated training budget for their personal development – something the agency takes very seriously. I started with the business six years ago as a fresh-faced account executive and with support from the team, am now part of the senior management team as an account director. This is supported through everything from Food for Thought sessions, sharing best practice across client teams and guest speakers, to a formal line-management structure to nurture upskilling and mentoring.”

Social events

“We also have a strong social calendar, with an annual agency-wide away day – in previous years we’ve done everything from gorge walking to herding sheep on a North Yorkshire farm to aid with team building.”

From Jules Herd, founder and managing director of communications consultancy Five in a Boat:

A culture that is fair

“Don’t make one rule for you as the boss and another for your staff. I am only in the London office three days a week, working remotely for the other two, so I offer my team the same privilege. Some take me up on it, some don’t…”


“Going away on business? Bring back gifts. Not the usual ‘I can’t be bothered so I will grab some sweets at the airport’ gift – actually check what people want. One of my team asked for a Polish sausage and that is exactly what she got – the biggest one I could find!”

Thoughtful touches

“We have an awards’ do coming up and for years I spent time getting ready in company toilets. It was shit. Give your team that extra bit of time either to get ready from home or to come in late the next day if that’s their preferred option” From Victoria Ruffy, founder of agency Little Red Rooster PR:

Tailored rewards

“It’s important to understand that people are motivated by different things – some members of the team love the twice a week lunchtime gym classes and free monthly membership, whereas others may be more incentivised by promise of rewards and prizes. This is why we also have coverage of the month and employee of the month winners and everyone has the chance to put forward their own work.”

Flexible working

“We are also trying to offer more flexible working – we are in the process of bringing in later starts if the team have been at an event the night before and early finishes on a Friday. It’s important to us that the team have work life balance so they don’t burn out.”

What makes me happy

Great management

Claire Thompson, freelancer at Waves PR, says: “Great management and clear direction, even as a freelancer. Because when it’s bad, when I’m micromanaged or don’t know where what I’m doing fits into the big picture, no amount of perks can help!”

Work going well

Jessica Pardoe, digital PR executive at digital agency Tecmark, says: "I know it sounds cheeeeesy but to me, nothing makes me happier at work than seeing a campaign do really well. That sense of achievement is second to none, and I think most PROs will agree with me that they still get excited about landing coverage, especially in your target publications.”

Other people

Pardoe also really loves the people she works with: “Things that make me happy at work include having a team that you get along with really well. Being able to have a laugh and a joke but still being able to get the best work done. You can't beat having a great relationship with your colleagues, it makes work somewhere you're excited to attend."

The company culture

Charlie Bush, client executive at agency Milk and Honey PR, says: “It’s the policies and values which ultimately keep us happy.

“Our culture is very important to us and we have a high energy, passionate team. Through full transparency in meetings and a trip abroad every year to plan our direction, our staff gain insight into all corners of the business. No file is locked away, or question too difficult to ask.

“Working for a company that aligns with your values is also something that makes us all happy. Recently we gained B Corp certification. As one of only five PR agencies to do so, this is a huge achievement for the team, recognising our environmental and social values, as well as our commitment to do good in the world.”


Ryan O’Leary, account manager at agency Alpaca Communications, says: “At Alpaca one of the best parts of the agency is the creative sessions we have as a team. Working together in a fun environment to come up with something truly creative for our clients is a key factor for myself when it comes to job satisfaction and happiness.”

An office dog

O’Leary also loves having a furry friend at work: “Creative ideation a side, whilst I’m on the topic of happiness at work – there’s nothing quite like a dog. We recently had an office dog for a week and happiness levels went through the roof not just in our office, but the whole building and now I come to think about it, she even made the commuters on the Northern Line happy.”

Making clients happy

Alex Sweeney, account manager at PR agency Whiteoaks International, says: “For me, happiness at work comes from leading a team who are all committed to delivering results beyond client expectations. By building strong relationships with our clients we can better understand the impact of these results which I think is essential to enjoying a role in a PR agency. To feel motivated it’s crucial that the team is actively engaged with the clients we work with, that we understand their brand and know what gets our clients excited. I find that when expectations are aligned, we can better celebrate success with our clients too.”

Considerate perks

Sweeney also appreciates his agency offering perks, including flexible working: “Whiteoaks offers lots of treats and perks throughout the year, from epic Christmas parties complete with complimentary travel home through to more relaxed summer BBQs. Flexible working is a huge plus, allowing me to make the most of some evenings, whether it’s rushing off to the football or getting a haircut”.

Now what really makes me happy is forgetting all about work in order to start enjoying the weekend… so stop reading this and get ready to party!

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