How to embrace flexibility on remote work while keeping in-person inspiration

One PR pro makes the case that there are some activities that can’t be replicated online. Here’s one way to think about structuring a hybrid future for PR workflows.

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It’s an odd sensation, being home alone every day now that my husband is back at work, with the silence broken only by Zoom calls. And it’s not just home: The neighborhood is quieter. I don’t see anyone on my daily walks, no more dogs barking or kids playing, and the drone of traffic is back.

It seems the world has returned to work—but for many of us in PR, we’re still at home. Why? Because we can.

Let’s be honest: PR practitioners never really needed to be in an office. Building a sense of culture and community with co-workers is great, but for the most part, all we need is a computer and phone to do our jobs. It’s what makes the return-to-office question all that much more difficult, both for individuals and team leaders.

Personally, prior to March 2020, I never thought about being a remote employee, and had even turned down jobs that offered it. It simply didn’t seem feasible. But now, I find myself not wanting to go back to the office—at least not full time.

I’m privileged to have a quiet and comfortable space to work at home. I like petting my cat between meetings. I like wearing leggings all day. I like getting things done during the week that used to rob my weekends (laundry, cleaning, the like). Most of all, I like sleeping in because I don’t have to get ready and drive to work.

But not everyone agrees. Anecdotally, the general consensus seems to be that newer team members can’t wait to get back into the office—which makes sense. Some of my colleagues never had the opportunity to experience office life. They started during the pandemic and have never met their co-workers or clients face-to-face.

This seems like a problem. I can’t imagine starting out in PR without ever having the advantage of learning from others in-person. Who knew what a luxury that would become!

A lot of what happens in an office can’t be completely replicated remotely, like training or building lasting relationships, with both co-workers and clients. On the other hand, the flexibility of working from home provides opportunities for those who can’t make it into an office every day, and shouldn’t have to. Whether you’re caring for three kids or one cat, working from home opens doors for a lot of people, and allows organizations to expand their horizons.

So, what’s the right answer? Should we all head back to the office or continue working from home? Clearly we need a hybrid solution. That’s why it’s time to make Tuesday the new Monday.

I’m planning to head into the office a few times a week, with no set-in-stone schedule, just whenever the need is there or, candidly, when I feel like it. I won’t trek into the office on a daily basis to sit in front of my computer screen at my cube. I can do that at home. Instead, I’ll plan my time in the office around more meaningful interactions, like training junior staff or meeting colleagues and clients for lunch to build better relationships.

To agency and internal PR team leaders, it’s on you to allow your teams the flexibility they deserve to work in a way that works best for their lives. That being said, there are still some solid reasons to head into the office, for those who are able:

  • Training: Not just for new team members, but for people at all levels learning something new, it’s incredibly helpful to have face-to-face interaction. No screen can replace sitting next to someone and actually watching them do a task while they talk you through the process.
  • Team bonding: This one doesn’t even have to involve work; it could take the form of a happy hour, team lunch or social activity. Whatever form you chose though, in-person team bonding is a key way to build relationships with both internal team members and clients.
  • Brainstorming: Although PR teams have had many productive brainstorms via Zoom throughout the past year and a half, there’s something about getting in a room together with a table of sugary snacks and a whiteboard (or window) and just having fun. I always loved ending my Friday afternoons with group brainstorms. It was a great way to kick off the weekend.

In my opinion, now is a time of reflection, a time for PR practitioners to zoom out from the daily grind and really consider what matters most, both personally and professionally. We all need to find a solution that works best on an individual level.

 

Chelsea Corona is a vice president with Method Communications.

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