The evolving PR “workplace”

CoffeeShopMtgI work for myself. I’m a solo PR/marketing strategist. With that comes a certain amount of freedom (OK, a lot of freedom). But, with that freedom comes responsibility, too. You have to be able to manage your time. Your schedule. And sometimes, that’s not easy. But, it is liberating.

That freedom means I can manage my schedule as I see fit. It also means I can and do work from my home, at the library, at the cabin, and at coffee houses across the Twin Cities.

I do not have a traditional office. Don’t need one, really. Why? Because I think the nature of today’s workplace for PR pros is changing. And not just for solo practitioners, either.

A number of large companies right here in Minnesota are already embracing this change in the way we work. Best Buy and Fairview have gone with the ROWE (results-only work environment) concept. Other organizations like Citrix are supporting this change in different ways like its workshifting campaign.

More specific to PR, I know a few local agencies that support a remote work culture, too.

CaribouCoffeeMake no mistake about it, a substantial shift is occurring. As I work at one of several local Caribous each day, I see it. People holding meeting, doing business in non-traditional work settings.

For example, let me outline my day on Thursday, Nov. 5:

6:03—2-year-old wakes me up. It’s early.

7:40—I leave the house with both kids in tow to drop them off at daycare 10 miles from our home.

8:02—Arrive at daycare. Drop kids off.

8:08—Plug in my laptop and start work at a Caribou Coffee within 2 miles of our daycare to avoid morning rush commute.

9:57—Unplug and head home to work, successfully avoiding sitting in traffic and wasting 30-plus minutes of my time.

11:06: Chat with a friend and colleague about new client work and other topics via Skype (free tool)

11:49: I eat lunch on my couch. While working.

1:14: I leave for another Caribou up in Maple Grove (north of the city) to again avoid rush hour for a 5:30 client meeting.

1:46: Plug in at my second Caribou for the day. It’s packed.

4:45: Unplug and head to Kinkos to make a few copies.

5:29: Arrive at client site for hour-long meeting.

8:00: Head home for the evening. Hang out with my family for a couple hours.

9:57: Hop back online to read and respond to a few emails and prepare for the next day.

Strangely enough, that kind of schedule hasn’t been all that unusual for me the last few weeks. And, if you noticed, I spent a grand total of about 2 hours in my home office.

The workplace, as we know it, may look completely different in just a few short years. What kind of impact does that have for us, as PR professionals? How will it affect our jobs, our work styles and our lives? I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

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12 comments on “The evolving PR “workplace”

  1. This is a great piece. We as PR folk are lucky that our industry is out on the edge of this. It gives us tons of freedom if we choose to grab it. And the ROWE companies? Sheer genius. Thanks for the glimpse into your unconventional, by-your-own-rules day. And here’s to hoping it reveals for even one more person that they need not stay beholden to industrial-age constructs.

  2. Arik, this makes me even more excited for Dec. 1 and beyond! 🙂 Glad to hear you’re embracing the new, more flexible schedule — and making it work for you.

  3. Steve Mullen says:

    It’s a shame more companies aren’t embracing flexible schedules for their employees. I am also a solo practitioner, and I work much more efficiently from my home office than I ever would in a traditional work environment.

  4. Love to see you embracing the solo style – and using it to your advantage, Arik! Planning ahead to save sitting in traffic is such a great idea.

    It is amazing how much more you can accomplish when your job fits around your life, versus the other way around.


  5. arikhanson says:

    Jen, Heather, Shane, Steve:

    Thanks for the comments. This post wasn’t necessarily meant to be about me, but more about how organizations can learn from what I (and many, many others like me and you) am doing to build my schedule around my life. And, as you all noted, how much more productive we are when we do that. Amazing how slow companies are to grasp this concept. The smart ones are realizing it quickly and capitalizing.


  6. Kellye Crane says:

    Great to see you experiencing the benefits of the alternative workforce first-hand! Dan Pink articulated this shift in his book “Free Agent Nation” — forward-thinking companies recognize that this new way of working benefits them, as well.

    I think the current recession further proves the value of working for yourself. With each downturn in the economy, more people recognize the fact that their employers are not loyal to them — so why should they be loyal to an employer? When you make your skills available on the free market, you reap the rewards for yourself!

  7. Ari Herzog says:

    Per your comment, how would you like organizations to embrace these changes? IBM has embraced telecommuting for over a decade; are they the anomaly?

    (Sidenote: Can you please install so folks like me can get instantaneous email notification of comment replies?)

  8. After 5 years of consulting and 11 years at agencies I’ve come to the conclusion that the ROWE environment is much more productive. Cut out the water cooler chit chat, breaks, lunch and “Are you serious meetings and basically you’re left with a 4-5 hour workday. I’ve never been happier to embrace the solo PR life again!

  9. Amen to that!

    There are big advantages to companies that embrace this model:

    * Reduced costs of physical space
    * Reduced healthcare costs
    * No employee taxes
    * Motivated employees eager to EARN their pay
    * Employees who choose projects they’re passionate about
    * Ability for independent team members to collaborate with others as needed, so solutions are tailored to needs, rather than on-hand skill sets

    It’s hard for traditional employees to comprehend someone working outside the 9-5 schedule and the four-walls workplace. It takes brave thinking to imagine new, better ways to do business. Good for you for thinking boldly, my friend.

  10. Arik,
    Fresh thinking about work schedules is innovative, which is why some organizations don’t get it. It’s no different than individuals; some are on the leading edge while others follow when forced. Many international corporations have recognized and tapped into more flexible work schedules, but the key, as you said, is that an employee has to have time management skills.

    Great post!

  11. arikhanson says:

    Ari,thanks for stopping by. As you stated, there are definitely a number of companies that are embracing this cultural shift. But, I think they’re few and far between. Up here in Minneapolis, Best Buy and Fairview have officially stepped up. But, outside of that, I don’t see widespread adoption.

    I think if organizations start seeing the benefits of this new way of working (as Scott so aptly pointed out), they will give it a try. Plus, I think the new workforce will start to expect this kind of flexibility. And why shouldn’t they? If it means you’re more productive, why wouldn’t you want to do it?

    And thanks for the tip on the plug in–installing it right now.

  12. Katie says:

    I completely agree with this post. I’m at a Caribou right now, actually. To my left are two individuals discussing an interactive communications plan and to my right there is an interview for a PR internship taking place.

    You nailed it!