"Crises serve as indicators to rectify a trajectory, explore new directions, experience other paths" quote of Carl Jung.
When I joined PRfact in 2008, the first thing I noticed was the great office. At that time on the other side of the Tiefenbrunnen mill, but always very creative and inviting. In 2010, we moved to the even larger premises we have today. The office had many advantages: its own showroom, a terrace, a looooot of space for our employees. :) Coming together and being creative together was the motto. Clients and journalists alike are still impressed when they (are allowed to) visit us. If someone had told us that this extraordinary office would one day no longer be the heart of our daily working life - we would have shaken our heads in disbelief.
The office, a place that brought us together. And then came 2020 ... and everything changed. What was previously unthinkable suddenly became the new normal: the home office. How was that supposed to work? Could it even work?
The answer was yes! Being forced into it, we quickly noticed how flexible working is possible and which framework conditions are necessary for it. Along the way we also noticed which positive effects it had. We all had to get used to this complex situation at first but what we take from it is, above all, trust.
What we had learned in our training as communication consultants now applied to us: analyze crisis scenarios and adapt existing processes to react more effectively. First in the short term, then in the medium term and now in the longer term. We tried to make the effects of the new regulations as positive as possible for us. How did we manage to let the last months have a positive impact on our staffing, our services and our agency?
I. Trust in our team
Flexibility requires a lot of trust; without it, things do not work very well. Communicating only virtually from one day to the other and relying on the teams to do their work took a lot of effort. We know all too well the saying "trust is good, control is better" ... But trust also means giving our employees a pledge of confidence. We were forced to change our work locations and work more flexibly. Trust in our team has helped us to make a more flexible way of working possible. Our teams perform their tasks with passion and focus, irrespective of the work location. They ensure client satisfaction and work where and when it is most effective. This benefits us as an agency and will keep on doing so.
This cannot work without the help of technology. Before the crisis, we already relied on Slack for internal communication. This helped us in particular to stay in constant contact with all team members and to promote exchange. Thankfully we haven’t worked with computers for a long time, as laptops can be taken anywhere anytime. ;) We still miss the physical meetings, but games or free discussions catch ups will keep us going for now. In short the crisis also had its positive effects: we trust each other much more than before, we are more flexible and effective.
II. Trust in our values
The home office imposition even helped us live our values better! The well-being of employees, or the balance between work and leisure, has increased. Young mothers are closer to their families, students are more flexible in doing their job alongside their school duties and sport lovers can make the most of their breaks for physical activities. The bottom line is that most of our colleagues find that remote work gives them more flexibility. Trust that our employees live our values even in a crisis helped us to accept the situation and make the best of it. The level of personal fulfillment of each of the team member is even higher than before.
III. Trust in our new strategy
We have moved away from the idea that productivity depends on a fixed number of hours worked in a fixed place. We challenged the status quo and we are now more agile than before. It is still important for us to meet our employees face-to-face and to offer creatives spaces. Closing the office is out of the question for us. As soon as we can safely return to the office, we will be happy to exchange face-to-face with our colleagues but will stick to the hybrid working strategy. In our view, flexible working hours are simply part of a modern workplace these days.
IV. Our clients can trust us
The pandemic did not only have negative consequences. The experiences of the last few months made us even more flexible as an agency. Products have been successfully launched from our home offices, we continue to maintain relationships with important contacts in our network and are available to our clients in an even more flexible way than before the pandemic. The many video calls and what we experienced together in this extraordinary year strengthened the relationships with our clients on a personal level too. We modernized our way of working, which showed us that, we, as an agency, are able to grow and support our colleagues more in their personal development. Collective success thus also promoted client satisfaction, as happy employees make for happy clients. We always want to develop creative solutions on how to move forward as an agency. Not only in times of crisis. Public relations does not just mean doing media relations for a client, it means thinking about 360 campaigns to support them buy using all available tool. On that note, please don’t miss Silvana’s article on PESO thinking coming soon.
We will keep challenging the status quo!