The Future is Flexible

Tuesday, 26 May 2015, 17:36 | Category : General
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Last week we were proud to co-host an event together with the Women In PR networking group all about building flexible PR careers. We were lucky to have a fantastic panel of women bringing a different perspective to how they’ve made flexible working integral to very individual careers.

The panel was chaired by Mary Whenman, President of Women in PR and the epitome of the successful flexi-working professional, having worked as a consultant and in managerial roles at various PR agencies while bringing up her three boys.

I sat on the panel to represent the independent consultant option, having managed teams of freelancers for 10 years via The PR Network, and seeing how people can jump off the traditional PR career ladder and still work for exciting brands under their own steam.

We had Emma Coleman, head of communications for Groupon (EMEA), who had a great story to tell about how she petitioned for flexible working to be built into her contract before she even had her daughter, recognising the personal and business benefits of a flexi arrangement. Today Emma works 4 days a week from home and onsite, juggling multiple time zones and making it work for her employer and herself.

Ruth Allchurch, MD of lifestyle PR agency Cirkle and formerly of Diageo, was on the panel to talk about her agency’s very progressive approach to work/life balance and the many and varied options from a 9-day fortnight to compressed hour contracts.

Finally, we had a guest from outside the sector to give a broad perspective. Karen Mattison MBE set up Timewise with a business partner specifically to connect employers with talented women (and men!) looking for senior part time work, after she discovered there were 650,000 people working at the top of their professions in non FT roles.

Mary steered a fantastic debate with plenty of injections and questions from our audience, which comprised agency and in-house practitioners as well as members of our own network.

Key out-takes:

– Achieving a balance of confidence and trust between employer and employee forms the foundations of a happy flexible working arrangement

– It’s about give and take on both sides – the employer has agreed to a flexible arrangement and in return the employee must be prepared on occasion to be flexible on hours / time for their job to get done (within reason)

– It is primarily always going to be in the hands of the employee to force the business case for flexible working, but employers must be open to flexible working, to listen and be committed to making it work for both the employee and the business

– Flexible working is often negotiated when a prized employee requests it as they’ve already proven themselves; however this flexibility is often valued extremely highly by the employee, and it can stop them moving roles as senior roles are rarely advertised as part time / with flexibility built in

– When applying for a new role it is best to wait until the employer is seriously interested in you and what you have to offer the business before raising the question of flexibility in a role

– This is because flexible working still has some negative connotations and can be associated with lack of career focus

– Job shares should be more common in our industry to stop the talent drain. Companies can value the 2 brains vs 1 brain approach, but this set up is far from the norm and companies are unlikely to advertise for a job share position; they may consent if two people were to make a strong business case. The challenge however is that the two people job sharing really need to be able to work in a similar way and have complementary skill sets

– It’s up to us all to pave the way for future generations of workers (not just female) by waving the “flexible flag”. It’s achievable and it is there for the taking – do be brave and ask!

This was a lively and stimulating discussion and we hope we inspired our audience to feel that wherever they take their careers, they don’t have to work 9 -5, 5 days a week to be successful and make a contribution.

– Nicky

@WIPRUK @PRNetwork @KarenMattison @TimewiseJobs @allchuru @nickyimrie

Contact us if you are interested in a 50% discount on joining the Women in PR networking group for the chance to attend more events and network with like minded women working in our industry.

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