Can PR pros work on a flex-time schedule and still do their jobs well?

Kim Duffy, HR director at Coyne PR, and James Grant, president of James Grant PR, debate whether comms pros still do their jobs well while working on a flex-time schedule.

Kim Duffy

HR director, Coyne PR

Kim Duffy has spent 16-plus years in human resources, a few of those building HR departments for tech startups

PR is a 24-7 business and allowing for employee flexibility has proved to be advantageous to both the employee's quality of life and to the quality of the work they can deliver to clients.

With the help of today's business technology, we find that operations run seamlessly without any loss of client service when our employees are working on a flex basis. Coyne's "flexible work environment" program consists of telecommuting, a reduced work week, and/or flexible work hours. We instituted the program in 2010, particularly in response to three new mothers who were looking for a way to continue their careers with more flexibility.

We actually have several employees who take advantage of the program. Some work from home up to two days per week, others have a four-day work week, and some simply work flexible hours to be able to take care of personal needs, such as picking up their children from school.

The program was built on the premise of 100% flexibility and "results-only work." As long as the client is satisfied, the work is getting done, and the teams are meeting their objectives, why does it matter where or when someone is doing the work?

There are a number of reasons why it is successful. At the start of a flexible arrangement, we are honest with employees about performance expectations. We openly discuss how meetings, schedules, and workload will be coordinated across the team. Employees working remotely are aware of upcoming brainstorms or client and team meetings so they can adjust their schedule accordingly and not miss a beat. And when it comes to client communication, we are fully transparent about our employees' schedules, home-office flexibility, and, most importantly, our goal to continue providing outstanding levels of service to them.

In the end, your agency wants to be the best place to work with the best employees and the best clients. It's all about creating a place where professionals want to be. 

James Grant

President, James Grant PR

Former VP of The Michael Russell Group and former West Coast publicity director of Orion Pictures

The concept of a flex-time schedule for what is essentially a service-oriented business is great in theory, but somewhat unrealistic in practice. Specifically, if you define a flex-time schedule as a four-day week - which clearly means that no work would be done on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday - it's simply not doable if you want to do the job well.

I do not know of any clients who would accept only having access to me four days a week. The clients I represent are extremely time-challenged. I frequently get e-mails and/or phone calls from clients after 10:30pm.

Years ago, I was working on a movie for Miramax and Harvey Weinstein called me at 2am to ask why a star was not doing David Letterman's show. Clients these days expect answers quickly and there are a lot of people out there who will deliver if you don't.

There is no ebb and flow with client needs - only flow. It's a major reason why PR practitioners tend to feel more pressure than most other professionals.

In theory, I like the idea of flexible work hours, particularly for working mothers who have so much multitasking required on a daily basis. It could possibly work for support staff - although I would be reluctant to hire someone who is never available for a fifth workday if things are busy. Having a PR person who is unavailable for a client on a weekday means the client then has to build his or her work needs and schedule around that person.

There is some good news, however, about this particular trend - the workplace itself. In this era of telecommunications, Skype, and Internet, we can now be absolutely flexible where we choose to work. Clients no longer care whether you work at a chic corporate address or from home as long as you achieve the results they are looking for.

Whether a businessperson is working four days a week or seven, there will always be the bottom line, which is delivering the goods. Hopefully, that will not require giving up your Sunday. However, if it does, then so be it. l

Staffers enthusiastic about their work environment will produce better results for clients. As such, a flex-time arrangement could work well, as long as the employee understands that client needs are of the most importance.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in