A clear business case for a new way of working
Flexible working in PR & Communications has long been seen as an elusive Holy Grail, rather than an industry norm. Despite some positive steps forward, presenteeism is still rife in our industry and is a reason why many, particularly women, talk about their PR careers having a shelf life.
Spend just a few moments on forums such as Flexible Working for People Like Me, run by the brilliant Katy Adelson, and you’ll see the battles too many people still face in securing flexible roles that work for them.
Out of date attitudes
One of the biggest barriers is old systems and a set-in-our-ways culture, set up around a traditional way of working that is no longer fit for the businesses of today.
I’ve been inspired working with forward-thinking agencies like Onyx who understand that the way we work needs to change and embrace flexible working to offer real value to their clients (they’ve written a great book on the subject, check it out here).
The flex five
After nearly two decades working within a traditional 9 -5.30 framework (ok, more like 8 - 8!), I’ve seen the real benefits that flexible working brings in terms of my own productivity and creativity. Here’s the top five positive impacts it’s had on my work:
1. Inspiration: Being surrounded by the same four walls and the same people day in, day out, is a creativity killer. That’s why it is nuts that presenteeism still has such a vice-like grip on so many creative businesses. Being able to work from home, from a cafe, with a group of friends or contacts or even whilst travelling, introduces new stimulus and ideas into your thinking. It gets you out meeting different people - you know, the ones that us PR people are actually trying to create campaigns for!
2. Motivation: The people I know who work flexibly are amongst the most motivated people I know. The reason? They feel a genuine reciprocation between themselves and their employer. They feel valued and are therefore more motivated to offer great value to their employer and clients in return.
3. Productivity: Guess what, the link between flexible working and productivity is clear. BT found that the productivity of its flexible workers increased by 30%, compared to those in regular roles. An office environment is great for creating a business culture and bonding a team, yet it is full of distractions. If I want to get a job done, being able to focus on it in a space of my choosing is the single best way to focus my mind and plough through the work.
4. Saving time & money: Have you seen the cost of a peak time railcard into London these days? With more and more people having to commute into the city, letting staff be more flexible saves them money. Not only that, they save time. I’ve lost count of the times in the past that I’ve wasted precious time travelling back to the office to show my face when I could have been more productive working out of a client’s office or even on the journey home.
5. Improved wellbeing: A healthy body and mind makes for a better worker - it’s not rocket science. Whereas many work places are geared up to offer lots of incentives to younger workers - think office bar, extravagant parties - one of the most in demand benefits for parents and older workers is the ability to work flexibly around other commitments. This doesn’t just mean childcare. Some people want to prioritise their emotional health and wellbeing, others want to pursue side projects or commit to other roles.
We’ve all got a role to play in making this a success, but I feel more optimistic by the day that businesses are starting to realise that ignoring the trend towards flex working is to the detriment of their customers.
Here’s hoping that change really is afoot.