When Faith PR celebrated its 10th birthday in 2017 I wrote a blog summarising the 10 most important things I had learnt in business during that decade.
Lesson number one is that people are key to your success, particularly in a service-driven industry. Public relations is a people business. It may be a cliché, but it’s true. Client wins, client work, awards, revenues and profits are all generated on the back of the talent we have at our disposal.
As my team grew, the question of looking after and nurturing them naturally became more and more important. I wanted to ensure I was providing a positive work environment and building a happy team with good morale.
In addition – again, a cliché but true – PR remains a female-dominated profession so retaining talent is a key issue when people start a family and attempt to juggle family life with the demands of maintaining a career.
But flexible working is not just the remit of parents, guardians and carers anymore – the option to work flexibly has become more and more important to everyone, and is viewed as an integral part of modern business culture.
Admittedly, it took me a while to get my head around how flexible working could work for Faith PR. Our industry is recognised as an ‘always on’ profession, especially in an agency environment where early starts and late nights can be the norm (at least, that was my experience coming from a bigger agency background. Oh, how many late nights and weekends I could have claimed time off for ‘in lieu’ in today’s culture!).
I wasn’t sure if it could work without client servicing and productivity suffering. Would the same amount of work get done? Would the office be empty all the time? Would teamwork suffer? Would people take advantage?
I knew it worked for me, but as the business owner, it’s a given I’m going to work longer and harder than anyone else to get the work done. I wondered whether others would show the same conscientiousness and attitude.
So, I started doing some research. I asked the team to share their thoughts and experiences and I spoke to several other business owners, especially agency owners, to see how it worked for them in a fast-paced agency environment. I also sought advice from our HR advisor to discuss the practicalities of creating a flexible working policy that would fit into our business model.
After creating a policy that suited Faith PR, we trialled flexible working for six months and have now rolled it out as a permanent benefit. So far, the team have embraced it, and I hope it contributes to a positive working environment and culture within the agency, which I will continue developing.
For me, as the business owner, the ultimate measure of success is productivity and the impact on the bottom line. But the power that flexible working gives to employees to control their own lives, whilst delivering better results because they are more engaged and longer-serving can’t be under-estimated.
MY TOP TIPS TO ENABLE FLEXIBLE WORKING IN A PR AGENCY
- Trust breeds trust — put trust in your team and let them be accountable. If you and your team members actually respect and trust one another to deliver, productivity levels can soar.
- Communication is key — for effective flexible working to actually work day to day, team members need to be in frequent communication with each other to connect, work collaboratively and solve problems. Without this basic level of communication the whole system would soon break down!
- Define fixed times when everyone should be in the office together — despite the many benefits flexible working brings, having certainty around those periods means you can confidently schedule team meetings, project catch-ups, company celebrations, staff outings, and other events.
- Embrace technology and invest in it – moving your working environment to the cloud is one fast and practical way to provide remote access. Issue smart devices and laptops if necessary and make the most of collaborative technology like What’s App, live meeting functionality, project management software etc.
HERE’S WHAT THE TEAM HAVE TO SAY
“Flexible and remote working means my career doesn’t come at the price of my life outside of work. Being able to vary my start/end times, or the location from where I work, gives me the opportunity to do things like seeing my son before his bedtime or wait in for those awkward deliveries that would have previously required using annual leave – it’s the little things that make a big difference.”
“With the introduction of flexible working hours, I have been able to change my working hours to fit with public transport times which is very useful considering it takes in total four rather long bus journeys a day to get to and from work. Before I was getting to work early and getting home rather late but now, I have time on a night to do more things I enjoy rather than having to travel through all the traffic.”
“The idea of being tied to the office from 9am until 5.30pm is a bit outdated when we can have a Skype call with clients in America or log in remotely from anywhere in the world. It also helps people avoid the dreaded rush hour at either end of the day. More importantly, helps with your work/life balance – starting a bit later in the day makes a huge difference.”
“Having the flexible working policy in place has allowed the team to become familiar with working from home on an ad hoc basis over the last few months. This means that when we were recently required to work remotely due to the office being temporarily out of action as a result of storm Ciara, it was a smooth transition.
“With Faith PR having the structure and processes in place to enable remote working, it has really helped to ensure it’s business as usual where our daily responsibilities are concerned. Everyone already has the ability and access to work from home and has thoroughly pulled together – from a distance – to continue to service clients and respond to media requests, etc.”