Lifestyle-driven virtual teams can help retain female talent

Public relations agencies are in trouble: valued senior practitioners, especially women with children, are resigning.

Public relations agencies are in trouble: valued senior practitioners, especially women with children, are resigning.

Many are walking away from their careers, and in many cases high salaries, because employers are unwilling to provide them with the flexibility they need to balance work and family lives.

Lifestyle-driven virtual teams are an emerging approach to flexible workplace arrangements that allow employees to decide how, when, and where they work. It rewards results over face time, so practitioners can maximize the time they devote to their personal lives. When implementing this model, companies must remove the focus on billable hours and instead study the hours an associate wants to work, and plan compensation accordingly.

Social change is driving the increase of virtual teams. With North America expected to suffer a labor shortage by 2020, these arrangements will become vital to the delivery of high-quality services.

Many people are losing interest in demanding jobs that require long hours, extensive face time, and daily commutes, and employers that begin to meet these lifestyle demands will be in place to attract and retain the most desirable female talent.

Although employers and clients reap the rewards of this business model, there are a number of challenges associated with managing virtual teams, such as working across time zones and over-reliance on email and telephone communication. However, these can be overcome by implementing proven virtual team processes.

For example, select employees who are self-reliant and self-motivated; provide each team with strong leadership and the right technology and tools to work remotely; establish communication protocols, clearly articulate objectives, define roles and hour allocations upfront; and be sensitive when scheduling meetings across time zones.

To stem the exodus of women from the workforce, keep top talent, and remain competitive, PR agencies must create new arrangements to accommodate talented practitioners. Lifestyle-driven virtual teams encourage true balance, motivating women to stay in the workforce, allowing them to juggle the often-stressful demands of work and family life more easily. Many find these benefits as important as vacation time, health benefits, and pension contributions. Most cannot put a price on this type of flexibility. 

Andrea Lekushoff is president of Broad Reach Communications.

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