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Has PR learnt to ‘live with Covid’?

Have you stopped wearing your mask now that we are all ‘living with Covid’? If you haven’t, you are in the minority judging from those travelling on British public transport…. We asked senior PRs how working in PR has been affected by the pandemic in the longer term.

We are keeping each other safe

Jessica Walsh, managing director of health and wellness at PR agency Hill+Knowlton Strategies  “We’re much more aware of the impact of our health on others thanks to Covid-19, and that’s a huge positive. To stay at home to prevent spreading illness is an act of kindness. 

“Vaccines, testing and treatments offer so much protection, but when so much of the world remains unvaccinated, we need to check our privilege to keep each other safe, particularly the vulnerable. The pandemic is a great reminder that our immune systems and everyone’s personal circumstances are different; if I had any virus right now, I’d stay home.“

 We encourage a germ-free office

Sinéad Gray, joint managing director at PR agency Kindred: “Our evolved set up now means our staff shouldn’t have to drag themselves into the office if they feel ill - even if it’s a cold and not Covid. Those days of sneezing at your desk should be over and our Covid-19 guidance promotes a ‘germ-free office’, advising colleagues to err on the side of caution and work from home if feeling under the weather. We’ve encouraged vaccination, although respect this is a personal choice, and actively welcome a culture of testing before our two office-first days. We are open to the fact our Covid-19 guidance will probably evolve further, and we keep a watching brief on this.”

Jessica Hancock, senior account executive at communications firm Byfield Consultancy: “Although it may seem we have entered into a new phase of ‘normal’ working, Covid still remains a consideration for people in PR. From my experience, colleagues have continued to carry out regular testing before entering into office spaces and before engaging in any in-person meetings. Anyone who has tested positive has isolated at home until they have tested negative for two consecutive days.“

Masks are worn less often

Jessica Hancock: “I have kept my masks, but admittedly have worn them less frequently since ‘living with Covid’ was introduced. Though, I do still tend to wear a mask on busy transport. It’s important to remember that the virus affects people in different ways, so it’s great to see the continued adoption of hybrid working in PR, to facilitate each person’s individual requirements.“

We have permanently embraced flexible working

Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Jessica Walsh: “The technology to work remotely may not be perfect, but the flexibility it brings to our lives and work was long overdue. On the flipside, there is a fresh intensity and even more bleed between work and life. With hybrid is still a work in progress, we need new approaches to build relationships and culture. The creativity, collaboration and reinvention that’s coming out of this period is going to be remembered forever.”

Kindred’s Sinéad Gray: “If there are any positives to be taken from the pandemic, it’s that it forced many office-loving agency leaders to understand how to effectively work in a hybrid world. We had in fact already introduced flexible working long before ‘lockdown’ was common parlance.”

Lekha Ly, senior digital PR manager at digital marketing agency Yard: “Having Covid-19 won’t cause a detriment to the business at Yard as we can fulfil our role remotely (that is if we are well enough of course). Just as Covid-19 seems to be here to stay, so is working from home.  

“We had a 20% working from home allowance (one day per week if you are full time) even before Covid, so working from home was already set up for us at Yard. The pandemic showed us how beneficial flexible working is so we have increased our WFH allowance to 60%  (three days per week if you are full time) as a norm for all stuff with some now working from home 100%.”

We make have back-up staff for events

Lekha Ly: “For those that are working on PR events, I would always ensure there are back-up staff that are available on the day/evening in case someone falls ill with Covid-19. I think that will be here to stay to keep events running efficiently.”

Freelance perspective

Freelancer Hester Grainger describes the balancing act for those who work for themselves:

“As a freelancer who has recently had Covid, it was a juggle to know whether to stop, rest and get completely better or try and work when I felt up to it. Keeping clients happy is a priority, especially when you run your own small business. At first, I tried to work when I could. I actually found this was detrimental, as when I was trying to rest, I was thinking about my to-do list. I decided to take some time off and make sure I got completely better. My clients understood and I think in the long run it meant I was back on my feet quicker. If I still worked in an agency, I think it would be easier to take time off as you have a team around you, to pick up the work. But when you are your own boss, it’s down to you.” 

The last two years have changed how PR works, health is now always front of mind and when it comes to working patterns, flexibility remains the norm.

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