I wrote a blog post this month about the PR firm of the future
. Clearly, it isn’t all worked out yet, but I do think the days of people sitting in offices from 9 to 5 (or 8 to 6 or 7 to 7) will soon be history.
As I do when I’m working out a new idea, I looked at it first from the perspective of an employee and whether the virtual company gives us a competitive advantage. Is it an added benefit most firms can’t yet offer?
What about as an employer? What about the client service issue, from a professional services firm perspective?
How might our clients feel about working with people who might not be full-time and might not live in North America? How might they feel about never meeting the team who does the work, relying instead on their account team lead?
Nontraditional work hours
commented on that post, saying we should take a page from startups and let people work when they want—meaning that if they can get their work done in two 15-hour days and take the rest of the week off, so be it.
I joked that I wish I could do that (maybe there is some truth to it), but when push comes to shove, we are a client service organization, so we need to be “on” when our clients are.
[RELATED: Hear how top companies adapted to the digital PR industry changes at this August event.]
So we have a virtual organization, and we hold a contest that requires my team to get up from their desks—gasp!—during the middle of the day, but people still work normal business hours.
Heck, they may work even longer. I know Lindsay Bell
starts her day around 5:30 or 6 a.m., but she’s also the best I’ve ever seen at shutting it down and not coming back to it until the next morning.
Then again, she’s a full-time employee, and she’s (for lack of a better term) required to work every day.
The client service issue
Here’s the other thing I struggle with: If people aren’t full-time, or they work two 15-hour days (or three 12-hour or whatever works), who becomes the client-facing person? Because I’m here to tell you, clients don’t care if you work only three days a week. If they have a challenge or issue at midnight on Saturday night, they’re calling you.
What I’m really afraid will happen is I will become the face to all clients, which isn’t scalable—and, really, isn’t where I should be spending my time if I want to expand an organization
Of course, now that I type this (and think out loud), I realize there are different incentives and different pay structures for those who work more-traditional hours than those who do not.
We’re not at a startup that is creating products or widgets or technology or software to sell. We sell our time so I think
we have to work more-traditional hours—at least until our clients begin to make the shift.
As things evolve, stay flexible
As you can see, it’s not fully baked. Things continue to evolve, and none of us really has any idea where it’s going to go.
What we do know is that most millennials (and some Gen Xers and Baby Boomers) want the flexibility
to work from home, go to family events, use the technology they prefer, and work the hours that fit their personalities.
I know that when I worked for someone, if I hadn’t had to be in the office by 8:30 a.m. and had the flexibility to work the morning hours from home and then stay later than 5:30 each day, I would have kissed my boss.
Sometimes that flexibility is more important than money or benefits or retirement funds or team parties or catered lunches.
We don’t truly know what the PR firm of the future will look like or how we’ll “fix” the client service issue if everyone wants to work fewer than five days a week, but we do know it’s evolving, and we should be considering work flexibility now.
Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and blogs at Spin Sucks, where a version of this article originally appeared.