PR is now a 24/7 industry, so should staffers be able to work from home?

Technology has changed the agency structure to enable staff to work seamlessly from home. But firms with non-traditional work-from-home policies run the risk of losing the benefits of collaboration, creativity, and camaraderie.

Yes

Christine Barney, Owner, rbb Public Relations
More than 20 years of PR experience. She has developed marcomms programs for clients such as Duncan Hines and DHL

Agency employees should have the freedom to choose not only where, but when they work as PR is a 24/7 business.

Every agency expects employees to answer emails at night, on weekends, and even on vacation. The assumption is that employees are already doing these things away from the office, so what is so magical about the hours between nine and six that require them to work only in the office?

It boils down to control and trust. Working from home is often a perk reserved only for senior staff, meaning others are guilty until proven innocent.

Dictating where work is done in order to force productivity is futile because there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all work environment.

It's also bad for business. Employees of a firm in California may regularly start early at home to match their work day with East Coast clients.

Increasing globalization necessitates working across multiple time zones, which requires employees to blend their personal and professional lives so they are always available.

Let's not forget the talent factor. Inability to work from home eliminates potential staff who don't live near the office.

Working from home is not that different from a global agency environment where virtual teams are created across offices. Yet few would argue that account teams must be located within one office to best serve a client.

Finally, treat people like adults. Trust them to choose the best ways to maximize their productivity by creating an employee-driven workplace.

Allowing poor work performance comes from poor leadership. If you manage by results, slackers are quickly identified no matter where they work.

Your employees are already

working at home. Why not consider maximizing that energy by creating this employee-driven workplace?

Listen, trust, and layer in communications about agency goals and performance-tracking measurements, and the results will be clear - employees and clients will stay, and everyone makes more money. 

No

Laura Tomasetti, CEO, 360 Public Relations
Agency owner since 2001 and has more than two decades of expertise in brand marketing, PR, and social media

We're in the midst of two moves this year into expanded spaces in New York and Boston. In this Skype age we all live in, you could argue that we should be looking to downsize physical space, cut costs, and encourage more employees to work from home.

Would that enable us to serve clients better? Would our employees prefer it? I don't believe so, and I don't think our employees do either. They're excited about having more space to collaborate and socialize in - they want to spend more, not less time, together.

When 360 PR launched more than a decade ago, we all worked remotely. While we were incredibly productive, without having to commute and minus the interruptions that are inevitable in an office environment, I missed what I like best about our business - the dynamic, often spontaneous, face-to-face exchanges of ideas with team members.

Today, the most important product clients buy from agencies is creativity. That's what drives campaigns and produces the engagement and other results that help clients succeed. So what drives creativity? There are online communities and TED talks designed to foster creativity, but there's nothing more effective than getting everyone in the same room. Call it the power of in-person.

Certainly there are times when all of us need flexibility. That's why we offer, for example, a work-from-home day of employees' choosing once a month and a rolling-start program that gives employees the option to come in a little later if they prefer to work after hours.

We've also made arrangements for parents returning to work to spend more time at home. But on any given day, most of us are in the office, not just working, but collaborating. That goes for cross-office collaboration, too. We move faster as an agency when we can connect on a dime with broader team resources for the quick gut check, as well as to solve more complex challenges.

Culturally, it's about fostering a sense that we're all in this together and we're working on something big. 


PRWeek's View
Technology has changed the agency structure to enable staff to work seamlessly from home. But firms with non-traditional work-from-home policies run the risk of losing the benefits of collaboration, creativity, and camaraderie.

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