Work from home and the PR community dynamics

There was a time work from home was considered as a luxury one could resort to. We would do it to take a break from our hectic routine or to attend to an impending chore in parallel, from the time saved in travel to work. That seems eons ago today. The last three months have changed the dynamics significantly. Work from home may soon be the norm as several companies are exploring it as the possible way of functioning in the future also. The PR community is no exception.

In PR too, organisations are doing their bit to make work from home seamless. Restricting the numbers of workdays, enforcing strict work timings daily are few such efforts. Efforts to develop more trust between employees in a remote working environment and be more empathetic are getting greater emphasis. Firms are using popular collaborative and productivity tools like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and in some cases, their proprietary platforms and products to use to bring their teams and people together.

Grappling with Media

For an intensely people-oriented community like the PR, it is not easy to make the shift to work from home, organisation-wide and for a long duration. Few people working from home a few days is ok. All people working from home on all days for an extended period is unusual even for firms.

The pandemic has hastened the churn in Indian media. Print media that succumbed to online onslaught was going strong and reasonably healthy, till the beginning of 2020. Changes brought about in media in the last three months poses immense challenges to PR professionals. As one young PR professional put it, ‘with the sudden changes taking place every day, it is so difficult to consistently ensure you are aware of what is happening across the universe. How do we engage with media regularly? Sometimes I don’t even know whom to call and whom not to.”

Managing Client asks

It becomes an even more arduous task when clients also expect information regularly to keep them aligned with regards to the community. Understanding what has changed with regards to the media in real-time, communicating to clients and suggesting the next course of action is not easy to carry out while working from home. Speed of change and collective experience and knowledge of colleagues that one had easy access to while working from the office are a double whammy. Maintaining clarity, empathy, being patient and acknowledging setbacks are not easy to do in this tough phase.

Firms are channelling their efforts to make their teams comfortable with the new work-life balance equation. They are emphasising on mental well-being and are facilitating it through talks by experts, work breaks, reduced workdays etc. They are being mindful and sensitive about work situations their teams are facing daily. Unusual times require different measures. As one leader in a firm put it, “I am listening more than conversing, these days. I realise I am able to solve more than half the problem just by listening. For me, right now, this is the most effective way of communication.”

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Radha Radhakrishnan
Radha Radhakrishnan has over 25 years of experience in corporate communications and marketing across different industries and geographies. She has built a reputation as a storyteller and a creative thinker. She has mentored social entrepreneurial startups and has been a visiting faculty at premier communications institutes in India. She is currently the global head of corporate communications at Wipro Enterprises. She anchors the weekly PR and Communication podcast, Mrigashira.

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