I wasn’t planning to pen a post just yet about my recent decision to go freelance as support for agencies and consultants, but I was encouraged along when a little drama erupted on Twitter over a blog article published by PRmoment about how having kids ruins your PR career.
Ultimately it missed the mark in its tone and was unhelpful.
I have some sympathy with the writer. Like all satire there’s an element of truth buried in it (albeit deeply). Having kids doesn’t ruin your PR career. But it doesn’t exactly propel it either. In the Digital Age, it’s not a job that can be left on the desk overnight. But then what job can? It’s a juggling act we all struggle with really.
It got me thinking about my decision to WFH…
The issues of remote working, working-from-home (WFH) and flexible working in the Comms industry have been kicking around for some time, and they’re pretty important given the fact that a large majority of the workforce are female and women traditionally carry the burden of childcare.
We had that incident in 2013 when the female CEO of Yahoo stopped the practice of working-from-home for her employees, right up to a few months ago when the Chartered Institute of Public Relations launched their recommendations for enabling flexible working conditions within the industry.
The fact is that I, like many women my age (30), do need a degree of flexibility in work so that we can juggle family commitments. Debates around the practice and conditions are important. But I think those conversations are missing a hugely important point:
Communications in the Digital Age is no longer a 9-5
The real problem for parents in the industry is the fact that, if required to do a full office shift (some of which will be dead time hanging around waiting for responses), you will then be required to do more - evenings, weekends, holidays - because you will have client questions, crisis responses, as-it-happens media reactions and social customer engagement. It’s only an issue because there won’t be time off in lieu for the out-of-hours stuff. The industry is too fast-paced, workload heavy and resource-light to afford that. So you will effectively lose your work-life balance.
Now that I’m technically “working from home” I’ve actually never been more productive. I’m keeping a strict timesheet of everything I do that’s work related, so I can figure out what hours I’m actually working. And calculate how much to bill clients for, obviously.
What I’m seeing is that I’m working less hours, but in higher intensity bursts, at unusual times, with less ‘dead time.’ I’m also feeling less stressed because I can take some traditionally office-time for school runs or homework or appointments, while also committing more traditionally home-life time to clients - such as night-time Twitter chats, breakfast emails, weekend social media research; all without guilt, in a state of non-overworked, high brain functionality and genuine enthusiasm.
Essentially, I’m the most efficient I’ve ever been
I’m not saying this could apply to larger businesses. Not everyone wants to work for a living, because not everyone loves what they do, so trust is a massive issue. You’ll never have the commitment to a job that you find when you’re solely responsible for, and benefitting from, the bottom line.
However, there may be elements that our industry, which is now 24-7, really should take note of and make better inroads into progressing. Working from home, outside the 9-5 doesn’t just benefit my work-life balance, it’s benefitting clients and my work because it’s offering the flexibility that the work requires.
Someone invented the internet already
With a mobile phone and some 4G your office can be:
Because regardless of whether you have a partner and children or you’re carefree and single, everyone in this industry will be working unsociable hours. Digital Communications doesn’t sleep. If we want to do it well, at the optimum times for each channel, to be authentically engaging and responsive to customers and the media, then we have to work outside the 9-5.
For me personally, and for the requirements of my clients in the industry I’m in, the ability to work outside the physical office and outside office hours works for me.
My only problem now is who is doing the tea run…
And who will eat the other 3 buns from the packet!