WFH 'forever' – could the PR industry follow Twitter's lead?

A PRWeek snap online poll suggests PR could be ready to mirror Twitter with a 'work from home forever' policy, but the argument is far more nuanced than that.

(© Getty Images)
(© Getty Images)

The global coronavirus pandemic has forced many industries to adopt work-from-home operating models, but could this continue when social distancing rules are eased?

Social media giant Twitter believes so, and has taken the extraordinary step of allowing staff to work from home indefnitiely, if they decide they do not want to return to the office.

There have been several unexpected working patterns emerging in the communications industry, including anecdotal evidence of teams bonding more closely since lockdown began.

But is there an appetite for agencies to go down down the path of working from home indfinitely, which is how only a small handful of agencies, including The PR Network, currently operate.

PRWeek ran a Twitter poll (below) to get feedback on the idea. 60 per cent said 'yes', but strong reasons why it might not work include 'how do younger PR pros gain experience and simply that comms is an industry that 'needs' face to face.

Some were immediately in favour of the idea:

Those opposed highlighted drawbacks of working in isolation:

One of these is 'how do young PR pros gain experience?'

There are also concerns about a lack of human engagement and interaction:

...and there was no shortage of alternative views:

Matt Cartmell, whose agency Carta Communications is running a survey on PR industry attitudes to returning to work, told PRWeek: "From conversations with contacts, my anecdotal sense is that few in the industry expect to be blowing the dust off their screens until October.

"Even then, it wouldn't be surprising if many in particular smaller agencies remain in virtual, remote-working mode indefinitely. But, for the sake of their employer brand, internal culture and client proposition, they would be wise to pick a side rather than stay in limbo."

This period of social distancing and lockdown is likely to make several agency leaders pause and redesign how their businesses operate, and it is likely that remote working could become more common and certaily more socially acceptable.

However, a lack of on-the-job interaction, guidance and the social benefits of working in an office environment are likely to prevent any radical shifts towards working from home indefinitely.

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