WFH, hybrid or back in the office: Where is PR at?
Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
The last year and a half have revolutionised how PR offices are working, but is working from home (WFH) going to last? We asked PR professionals where they are working right now, and how many have actually gone back to full time at the office (spoiler alert! No one we spoke to has).
We are fully remote
Amy Stone, communications consultant at marketing and comms consultancy Hard Numbers: “For now, we’re fully remote. Being a new business as of June 2020, you can perhaps understand why an office wasn’t the agency’s first priority. But it’s definitely a company goal for the not-too-distant future and I’m looking forward to working in real life again.
“That being said, working at an agency that is really thriving remotely has proved to me that the nine-to-six office grind isn’t necessary anymore. I love the work/life balance I have now and getting that two-hour commute time back has been fantastic. Though I wouldn’t say no to seeing my colleagues face to face a little more, bouncing off their creativity and getting out of my home office/kitchen, I wouldn’t want to go back to full office work. I think hybrid working would make me happiest and I’m pleased to say it’s a feeling reflected across our team.”
Claire Simpson, Amy’s colleague and communications consultant at Hard Numbers: “Starting out in PR, I remember how valuable it was to have conversations over a desk, get a team member to ‘red pen’ your work or talk through problems out loud. You can’t replicate these things remotely, in the same way you can’t ring-fence time for ‘deep work’ in an office. But the last 18 months have proven we can have our cake and eat it. We don’t need to be in an office five days a week and most people don’t want to be.”
We are mainly remote
Georgia Gadsby, co-founder and head of PR at agency Unearth PR: “Having co-founded Unearth PR in November 2020 (during the UK’s second lockdown) we had no choice but to start the business remotely. This meant home working for staff and freelancers, however this surprisingly turned out to be ideal. We planned to invest in an office space, but invested in our website and marketing instead, allowing us to increase our client roster at a rapid pace.
“In August 2021, with lockdown restrictions looking to be a thing of the past, we invested in a small office with the intention of having a flexible space when needed, but still being able to put our marketing and website budgets first. Now, if clients prefer to meet in person, we have this option available. Staff are also able to use the space as and when they need, with no set in-office working hours.”
We are mixing it up
Kerry Ganly, PR account executive at agency Penguin PR (pictured above with Derby County FC mascot): “Since Boris Johnson removed most restrictions here in England, we have adopted a hybrid approach to working; we tend to spend the beginning of the week in the office - the camaraderie and creativity of being together in an office is something which we missed during lockdown - and then a couple of days working from home, where we can get stuck into writing press releases whilst also putting a load of washing in.
“For me, as a working parent, I’m very fortunate to have been allowed to spend most of the summer holidays working from home. My two children are 13 and 10 and family is very important to us here at Penguin PR; I have been starting my working day around 6am and finishing off in the early evening, whilst maybe taking time out at lunch to ensure the children get some fresh air. I appreciate having that flexibility - and also the technology - to do this.”
Why hybrid works for me
Ashley Evans, digital marketing director at haircare company Eva NYC: “I’ve been working from home, but recently started making a trip to the office once a week. The time spent with co-workers in person has helped us stay connected, lessen our video calls, and enjoy lunch together. Although honestly these days often feel less ‘productive’ they are still hugely valuable.
“During the pandemic our creativity has not suffered at all. The quality of our work has become even more elevated and achieved brilliant results. The challenges relate more to internal processes and how to streamline tasks, plus the wellness and workloads within the team.
“My company hasn’t fully disclosed our new hybrid working model, but with co-workers all around the country I think we can expect a fair and flexible approach which will absolutely have WFH at its core. For me the choice to have a WFH option, but also the freedom to pop in occasionally is the perfect combination.”
Jessica Pardoe, account manager at agency Source PR: “For me, you can’t beat going into the office. It makes a refreshing change from the past 18 months, it means you can bounce ideas off your team and in my opinion, it generally keeps relationships strong - whether that’s with the client or your colleagues. I’m probably one of the rare few that is fully in support of the office. That being said, working from home has given me a firm work-life balance. I’ve been able to buy my dream home closer to my parents, because of the flexibility afforded to me by working from home. So all things considered, I definitely am the advocate for a hybrid return to work, a mix of office and home (which probably isn’t all that controversial). I’m very fortunate to have an employer that supports whichever decision we choose.”
For some, WFH is always going to be the preferred option, as it offers so much flexibility. But for others, particularly newer entrants into PR, you can’t beat the atmosphere and sociability of working in an office, so it is ideal if there is the option of hybrid working. Good and Bad columnist Andy Barr gives his take on the future of WFH here.
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