Treat your staff like adults and you might find that flexible working works

I wasn't surprised to read recently that the PR industry is one of the worst industries for supporting flexible working patterns.

Flexible working: It’s your choice, argues Frankie Oliver
Flexible working: It’s your choice, argues Frankie Oliver
Many people in the industry, but especially established agency heads, look at me like I’m a bit mad when I tell them how I work.  

Should you be interested, I work five days a week with two of those from home, and exchange hours in the day to work at night so that I can see my son as well as run a successful PR business.    

It’s not been without teething problems. But I think it’s fair to say, a year on, it’s really working.

When I share this information, people either tell me how amazing it is or look totally aghast stating that they couldn’t possibly entertain such a working pattern in their business.  

Why?  

In my honest opinion I think many agencies just don’t know how to treat their staff like adults.  

There is an innate paranoia that exists in many agencies that if people are not in an office under scrutiny, working 24/7, they will lose business or their staff will turn into a stage play of Lord of the Flies.

Meanwhile, the corporate world is leading the way. I have clients and friends who work in major global corporations in senior leadership roles three days a week, others that work four days in three.   

But tell an agency head that and they will say, "Yes, well they can. They are a corporate. They’ve probably got more support."

I don’t think they do. I think they just have more people holding them accountable for their corporate governance in a way that agencies aren’t.   

I have male friends who don’t even really need to work flexibly, but say they would never go back to agency life because of its obsession with presenteeism and inability to treat staff as adults.

I’m lucky enough to have a CEO from a new generation of leaders. A generation who don’t want to lose talent from the industry and are open-minded about trying new things.  

They understand that technology has changed the world and that the world isn’t still made of 1950s-style families.

So, as you go to work today there is one question I’d like you to ask yourselves.  

Is your company holding itself accountable and supporting the changing world by changing the way it works? Or is it stuck in its ways?

And if so, do you want to work for a company that’s stuck in its ways? Because that's the way of the dinosaurs.

It’s your choice.

Frankie Oliver is joint MD at Fever

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