‘Work From Office’ works better for PR

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has made ‘work from home’ a necessity for Corporates across the globe. For working parent(s) of school-going kids, the experience has been and continues to be exciting (the feel of togetherness with the family being around) and exhausting (on account of the but natural family demands when one is at home throughout)  at the same time. The pandemic is bringing forth both the pleasures and pressures of having the home as one’s office. While jumping from a Zoom meeting to a game of Ludo with the kids may seem like the perfect template for a good life, and could really work fine for professions where the inputs and results can be planned, it certainly cannot work for professionals who are in jobs where ‘tried my best’ does not necessarily get the best results. Public Relations (PR) is one such profession.

In any contemporary study or research on the world’s most stressful jobs, a PR professional’s job is sure to feature among the top 10 stressful jobs across the globe…many a time even among the top 5. Even in India, we see a lot of perpetual stress in client – firm relationships and within a consultancy, in subordinate – superior relationships. On the surface, it all looks calm and cool…there are smiles and handshakes all around. But beneath the pleasantries, there lies that permanent ‘xxx wasn’t delivered’.

Let’s take a simple example…when a PR executive, who is on ‘work from home’, is given the whole day to just write and share two articles of 1000 words each, wherein the subject matter is her / his forte, the employee will surely deliver on it. But if the same employee is asked to write just one 1000-words article and then get it published in a particular Category A media, the article writing part will be done for sure…it’s the pitching to the media part that will keep hanging. And this ‘hung’ status happens for very simple yet unexplainable reasons (journalist didn’t pick up when I called, and when he called back I was doing the dishes, and then when I called back he asked me to call later in the afternoon, which I couldn’t because my kids were all over me) that don’t qualify to be good professional excuses. And then it gets pushed to the next day…and for a few more next days, as the journalist’s interest and convictions also have a role to play. However much one may try, time management does become a little tough while working from home on account of various distractive factors.

While ‘work from home’ is the need of the hour during these difficult times across the globe, one would agree that working from office brings about a certain amount of discipline. When one is in office, there are no visible personal distractions. Between 9:30 A.M. and 6:30 P.M. on any working day, even if one spends 2 – 2½ hours on social media (personal), personal calls, smoke breaks, lunch, online purchases and office gossip, there’s still a good 6½ – 7 hours left exclusively for work…and if one really plans these 6½ – 7 hours well, she / he can finish a lot of work during this timeframe. Time management becomes lot more possible when one is in office. So in an office scenario where a PR executive has to reach a journalist, she / he can make calls and follow-up at frequent intervals, because there is very little or no distraction when compared to home.

There’s also that fear factor (which at times is good) that the boss is watching and would ask for face-to-face updates twice or thrice in a day; and also one wouldn’t want to be called a ‘shirker’ through silent murmurs by colleagues. All of these make the office a better place for a conducive work environment.

It’s also about being conscientious and responsible when on ‘work from home’. PR professionals are of two types…the ones who will responsibly work from home; and the ones who will religiously abide by the ‘home’ aspect, while forgetting the ‘work’ bit. Herein are a few differentiating traits when it comes to working from home…

Responsible PR Professional Casual PR Professional
Proactively works on assignments and reports to team leader Has to be coaxed to do things
Will somehow try and reach people (clients, media & other stakeholders) to move things forward When asked, will say (on a reactive basis) that she / he tried, but the other party did not pick up her / his calls
Will follow-up with HO on both work related and also HR / Accounts related matters  Will proactively follow-up with HR / Accounts only on salary and reimbursement matters
Will be worried about and will follow-up religiously on collections Will not be bothered about collections as long as her / his salary comes on time
Proactive client servicing Reactive client servicing

Also when PR professionals work from home, they generally only interact with their colleagues via e-mails and occasional calls (audio or video). This isn’t really conducive towards building meaningful relationships with co-workers in the same way as working in an office.

In a nutshell…

Every PR firm wants its employees to be passionate about the work they are doing. It’s not easy to inspire professionalism and passion across a scattered team through digital platforms. Face-to-face works better…which is possible only in an office scenario.

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

Vijay Shekhar
Vice President at Concept Public Relations
With over 23 years of experience as a communications professional, Vijay has always been on the agency side of the table and has worked on a wide slate of accounts spanning across sectors. He holds a B. Com and an MBA (Human Resources) from the University of Pune.

Vijay likes to watch old Hindi classic films and listen to old Hindi film songs, and has an enviable collection of both of these. He enjoys reading autobiographies and biographies, and also short stories, his favourite authors being R. K. Narayan, Munshi Premchand, Leo Tolstoy and Guy de Maupassant. Vijay also has a hobby of collecting news clippings (from newspapers and magazines) of important events across the globe…events that can be truly classified as ‘Breaking News’ or ‘Front Page News’.

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