This week the CIPR have published a new 28-page guide on ‘Flexible Working and Public Relations‘. Alongside nine key recommendations for enabling flexible working in PR and detailed legal, business and HR advice, the document contains employer-based and employee-based case studies of effective flexible working in practice.
As a recent graduate, Melissa Timmins, Communications Officer at NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group has shared her experience of flexible working, and how new-starters expectations of the PR profession are of an industry which must work in a flexible way in order to recruit and retain the very best talent.
I work as the communications officer for NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG); we’re the organisation who has responsibility for the commissioning of health services to meet the reasonable needs of the people of Hull. My position is highly varied; one day I might be completing ‘bread and butter’ tasks such as circulating a staff survey or proactively issuing press releases, the next I might be chasing a quote from Hull City Council around one of our partnership projects or organising a photo call. Social media has also fallen to me, working with management on staff social media training and ensuring the CCG’s social media platforms are regularly updated and monitored.
I finished university in May this year, and flexible working was certainly on my radar during my job search. I knew I’d have to travel to get my perfect job, I’d always wanted to work in communications within the healthcare sector, and I was more than willing to commute for the chance to work in my dream job. The mention of flexible working in the job description was certainly enticing; it’s not the be all and end all but it certainly helped swing things for me when it came down to choosing between two very similar positions.
I’m fortunate to work on flexi-time, so as long as my hours add up at the end of the month then, for want of a better phrase, everyone’s happy. It really is a case of give and take; during the production of our annual report, I started work at 8am and finished after 7 pm every day, but then on ‘slow’ days when finishing off press releases or waiting on information from a partner, no one has any problems with me starting at 9:30 am or finishing at 4:00 pm.
There are some days when it just isn’t viable to leave at 5 pm and some days where it makes sense to take time back. Often in PR or communications, you’re waiting on other people and then everything happens at once, for that reason it’s massively important that those working in the industry have the chance to work flexibly. There have been times in previous agency positions where I’ve been sat at a desk waiting for a phone to ring and unable to leave until 5:30 pm, it always felt like a massive waste of time and when you know your workload could double any minute, the last thing you want is to be knowingly wasting your own time.
The general feeling among my peers is that flexible working is massively important and I feel as though that’s only going to become more important over time. My peers and I understand that our future positions will inevitably involve social media, a form of communication which never turns off, and out of hours working such as crisis communications or attending events, so we expect to be able to balance that out with perhaps working from home on occasion or not sticking to the traditional 9 am – 5 pm day. Realistically PR and communications never has, and never will be a 9 – 5 job, if employers want to attract and retain the best staff then they will have to offer flexible working.