As a growing number of PR and ad agency executives pack in 12-hour work days and take more “staycations” with their families the term “work-life balance” may seem like an oxymoron. If you took the work-life balance at face value, of course, you might have firms that are open for just three and a half days a week while most employees would get at least six weeks of vacation annually, to boot. But don’t hold your breath.
That’s why we’re of the mind that agency owners and managers would be wise to promote “work-work” balance for their companies rather than try and sell “work-life balance.” It’s a more straightforward way to communicate with employees and be clear about your expectations—and theirs.
With that in mind, here’s a few tips for how agency owners and managers can establish “work-work” balance and be more flexible labor-wise with all their employees.
> Create rolling work hours: As millennials take on a growing number of jobs throughout the creative services arena, agencies need to offer more flexible work hours. This is not just about telecommuting, but embracing a 24/7/365 mindset. Employers should offer employees the option of trading work hours during the regular workweek for putting in some time during the weekend, for example, or enable people to work at night. Many agencies work in sophisticated office buildings that keep long hours. Take advantage of that. Instituting a “rolling workweek” caters to how valued millennials live. It also sends a strong message to younger and digitally savvy employees who are quick to vote with their feet if they’re not satisfied with their job. However, it’s also beneficial for parents who may have a sick child and need to take him or her to the doctor or want to see their kids in a school play. The key to making this work is flexibility. Many of the firms best in class already have practices in this area, acknowledging that, to many employees, time is more important than money.
> Reexamine your maternity and parental leave policies. The PR field has many women working as middle managers and senior account executives. However, in the last several years women have started to take on more leadership/C-level roles throughout the PR and advertising industries, a trend that is likely to accelerate. That’s why it’s crucial that agency owners reexamine (if not overhaul altogether) their maternity and parental leave policies. Having a one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t jibe with today’s workforce. Akin to rolling work hours, it’s important that agency owners and managers be flexible with both new moms and new dads and incentivize them to stay on board when they have a life-changing event.
> Keep the new disciplines coming. Hardly a month goes by without PR and ad firms taking on more responsibility for clients, whether it’s online analytics or social media campaigning. To keep your employees’ creative juices flowing, encourage your workers—regardless of the level— to try their hand at new disciplines (if appropriate, of course). The senior account manager who you just recruited may have a hidden flair for developing online video programming while the art director may possess a genius for writing punchy headlines. Biggest takeaway: Don’t let your employees for a minute think they’re in a professional rut or that their disciplines are getting stale. You want them to be passionate about their work. Don’t put anyone in a cubbyhole that makes it difficult for them to break out of and take on new challenges.
The work-work balance is less about how you artificially create a three-day workweek and more about how you create new opportunities in-house and accommodate the daily constraints that most people deal with. It will be a win-win for the executive and the firm.
What’s your take on the work-work/work-life balance? We’d love to know.
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