Can agencies balance telecommuting, collaboration?

After Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting triggered an uproar among critics and the press, I wondered how such a move would play out in the PR industry.

After Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting triggered an uproar among critics and the press, I wondered how such a move would play out in the PR industry.

The first thing that came to mind was a story I wrote last year for PRWeek's Career Guide about working mothers in PR. During my research, I interviewed six female senior-level executives, including two agency CEOs, and each said a flexible working schedule was crucial to achieving balance between career and family life.

For example, Fleishman-Hillard senior partner and CMO Stephanie Marchesi said that after giving birth to her first son, she arranged to work four days in the office of her former agency and one day at home. The “fluidity of moving between work and home” helped Marchesi, she said.

“Most times when I talk to Stephanie, I don't know where she is,” Fleishman president and CEO Dave Senay told me at the time. “But I know she's on the job and doing the best she can for clients, for the agency, and for her family.”

In an industry like PR where much of the workforce is female, giving current and future mothers the option to telecommute is clearly beneficial in helping them achieve balance and find satisfaction in their careers. The same holds true for working fathers.

Still, Mayer has a point in wanting more employees working in the office to foster a “spirit of collaboration.” Agencies like M Booth have told me about coming up with campaign ideas during brainstorming sessions with colleagues. Working from home is sometimes necessary and helpful, but without regular face-to-face interaction, as well, some of the creativity and problem-solving fueling the best communications work would be lost.

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