getting to the point

The subtitle of this blog is PR: Family Life: Having it all: Having a ball and as yet, I have failed miserably to write about much of it…

So, after four months of random posts, I am sitting down tonight to finish a post on the topic I originally intended this blog to be about (before I got sidetracked writing about other stuff)

Making flexible working actually work…

As a woman, a mum and someone passionate about what they do (PR if you haven’t figured it out yet or are new to this site), I am always keen to fly the flag for the intelligent, passionate and hard working people that all have the following in common…those who want:

a) a career

b )a family

c) a life outside of a major city

d) a permanent job

So answer me this. Why is it so many PR agencies are so backwards in their approach to letting staff work flexibly, for example part time or from home or adopting a dual location/time splitting plan?

The percentage of my friends and ex colleagues’ jaws that hit the floor when they hear that I a) work permanently for a London agency b) I spend the majority of my time working from Cornwall and c) I run a division which includes managing people, is shockingly high.

In an industry that has flogged the arse out of the work life balance issue for many years, why are we so bad at practising what we preach?

Is it a pure and simple trust issue?

Are agency bosses unsure of the skills needed to manage people remotely?

Is it the short term, knee jerk mentality that so many PR agencies have when responding to clients’ demands (“I NEED TO MEET YOU TODAY”)?

Surely it is a no brainer for agencies looking for a sustainable business model, less churn and lower overheads? Why are examples so rare then?

Or are they there and I have missed them?

I’d love to hear from anyone working in agency or who has had a flexible work request turned down….and if you have good examples of agencies offering real flexible work programmes, please also get in touch.

7 comments

  1. Jonathan · September 1, 2008

    Bite was really good with me. I had it written into my contract that I did one day a week at home, unless something super important prevented me from doing so. I think half the problem is the stigma attached to working from home or WFHing as people in agencies (including me) like to say. Most people just assume you rack out of bed at 10am and hang out in your pants listening to music or sitting in the sun. Whereas actually you’re getting a gazillion more things done because you;re not interrupted every 3 seconds by the door buzzer, phone, someone in finance or just a colleague wanting to ask you a question when the answer is ‘google.com’ .

  2. Becks · September 1, 2008

    I agree – I get through so much more work at home and thanks for the feedback on Bite. How would they have been if you’d wanted to move out of London and reverse the timings so you were just in the office one day a week for meetings and worked remotely the majority of the time?

  3. Jonathan · September 1, 2008

    Um, not sure. I decided that I wanted 100% flexibility and set up Shed 😉 To be honest though, like most other agencies I don’t think they’d have gone for that. Things will change, they’ll just take time. And right now things are moving pretty quick with new types of more flexible agency popping up left right and centre *cough* that are geared up to how people want to (and can) work.

  4. Becks · September 2, 2008

    I think that how agencies are set up and as you said “geared up” is the crux of the issue.

    IMO it is the agencies that are formulated this way from the outset/have a total re-think about how they attract and retain staff that will have the advantage

    Those that still think one morning a fortnight to write a proposal at home 😉 will keep/attract people who want to work flexibly in the long term will still be paying the recruitment fees and explaining to clients why half the team has been replaced…again!

  5. Jonathan · September 2, 2008

    Agreed.

  6. Ranbir · September 12, 2008

    Hi Becky,
    Just stumbled upon your post. There is a massive issue of trust, productivity loss and lack of motivation when it comes to letting people work from home or anywhere that isn’t right next to the boss.
    Having someone at the helm of an agency or team who can motivate remote workers to work and feel like part of a bigger team is something that PR agencies should be doing to differentiate themselves and keep the great talent on board.
    Onto us….there are now three of us, all senior and all working remotely BUT TOGETHER. We use every tech going to help us feel like we are sitting in the same room as each other and collaborate and it’s fantastic.
    We’re small but I’ve been working with a US based agency with 30 people distributed across the US working from their home offices using Web 2.0 to connect themselves and their clients and it works.
    It’s a matter of time Becky….

  7. Becks · September 15, 2008

    nice example of an agency that is starting out with a flexible approach Ranbir – sounds like things are going well and congrats (belated) on your award!

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