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2 March 2015

Why can’t agencies get their heads around flexible working?

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by Celia Clark

Why should we be surprised? Our call at the end of last year for PR professionals who are looking for some kind of flexible working arrangement has had not only an unprecedented response but an overwhelmingly high quality one: the best we’ve ever had for one of our recruitment campaigns.

We have known for a long time about the PR graveyard of lost resource: the fact that the industry loses thousands of great people (particularly agency-side and usually from Associate Director level upwards) because these people can’t or don’t want to work five days in an office any more. The challenge has been to help them find a flexible solution, when until now, most agencies insist that their clients need someone at senior level in the office five days a week. Not necessarily, we say. Select the right person with a solid team and they will do an exceptional job.

The women (and they are all women, so far) we have met have been, without exception, incredibly impressive with excellent and – importantly – relevant experience. They are looking for different things, ranging from five days a week including a day or two at home, to two or three days a week, to five days working entirely from home. They are not all mothers. Some are using a fifth day for a passion project: studying, volunteering. The mothers amongst them aren’t dabbling. They aren’t looking for a hobby. They want to work: they have childcare in place and are totally committed to doing the best job possible.

We are delighted that we’re now working with a handful of forward-thinking agencies that want to meet our brilliant flexible workers. They have seen the light and recognise that not considering these people means they risk settling for second best. If the best candidate for the job happens to work most effectively two days a week from the office and two days a week from home, why would you not hire them? The business model works with a core team (based in the office) plus a network of exceptional flexible workers, usually with specific areas of expertise, which the agencies can call on to help with particular projects, new business pitches or ongoing client work. Sure, there are challenges with this way of working: it requires a clear business model, strong leadership, a close knit team and shared values. For example, working as a team isn’t necessarily as easy if not everyone is physically together, but it is by no means impossible. People just need to be grown up, use their common sense and know that the best people will do the best work.

This isn’t about banging a drum. It’s about recognising that the world has changed and there are super-talented people out there whose expertise is being wasted because somehow, in this day and age of technology which offers us such mobility and freedom (or not – of course there are downsides to the ‘always on’ 24/7 culture), there is still an unhealthy obsession with doing some things the way they have always been done.

Join our discussion on linkedin – here

Here’s our call for PR professionals looking for flexible working: