Is a 5-day work week still realistic in PR?
Imagine a nice cool Saturday, the day stretching out in from of you to do what you please. Except, your PR job calls and instead of catching a movie or spending time with your family you are on the phone calling reporters or in office brainstorming over a campaign.
Which brings us to the million-dollar question. Is a 5-day work week in PR possible? Sharat Shyam, senior account executive - advocacy, CSR & development communications, Avian Media Pvt. Ltd says a firm, “No. A 5-day work is not possible in PR as you never know what opportunity will come to you over weekend. Considering we are the communications consultant for our clients, we have to be updated throughout the week. Also, in case of any crisis situation, a 5-day work does not apply.”
The HR team at ‘The PRactice’ in sharp contrast does believe it is possible - at least most of the time. The company’s director- human resources, Sudipta Gupta admits that in today’s hyper connected world, Public Relations is a 24x7 job. Gupta adds that, “But having said that, it is totally possible to have a five-day work week. We at The PRactice offer a healthy work life balance to our employees by giving the weekends off. In case of a client event or crisis, our team is at hand to manage the same.”
Is a 5-day week unavoidable?
Even as PR professionals struggle with a work-life balance, retaining talent in PR has become harder than ever. Falguni Patel, consultant, Simulations Public Relations says, “Increasingly, we are noticing that people are leaving jobs due to high stress level caused due to tight deadlines, no day offs and working weekends. The moment you are able to offer 5 days a week to the employee, I bet you have gained a resource for long period. It not only gives them time to spend with their family, but allows them to de-stress through weekend trips.”
Manas Mrinal, co-founder, Skateboard Media, helped set up the firm four years ago. Right from the beginning Manas says, “We were very clear that we wanted a 5-day working process as we believe PR has a very demanding by DNA. Keeping the same in mind we maintain a process where the teams across centers draw out a weekly task lists and targets along with sharing the same with our clients who are well informed about our working styles as well. We have seen enough cases of talented youngsters burning out at early ages and at Skateboard it has been a key imperative to ensure we guide and help them to love what we do and not treat it as a job but something they passionately want to pursue.”
Ullhas B Kulkarni, corporate communications professional also votes for a 5-day work week saying, “One has to take into consideration the client's needs but this has to be balanced with the PR professional's convenience too. Don't we all take a holiday on Sundays? If we are available, 24x7, the client too will expect us to be available 24x7 although the work may not require immediate attention. But if we make it clear to the client when we work and when we are off work, the client too will get conditioned to work within our framework.”
Anand Mahesh, co-founder and managing director, Mavcomm Consulting Pvt. Ltd. has a nuanced take on the issue saying that, “The 5 -day work week is usually very packed for all PR professionals. We at Mavcomm use the alternate working Saturday’s for things like presentations on contemporary topics and case-studies by team members, knowledge sharing and brainstorming sessions. I personally feel that these are beneficial to employee’s and help them in their personal and professional growth.”
Vineet Handa, founder & CEO, “Kaizzen PR has blunt comments on the topic saying, “Is PR a 5 days and 8 hours job a week? Answer is a big ‘NO’. In last 16 years I have seen many instances where I have worked round the clock. Handling media till the time story is filed late in the night. Working long hours on weekends before an important event or working on Saturdays to finish pending work.”
Vineet says that the real question is whether, “In today's world of connectivity and convergence do you really need an office? No you can address media and clients’ requests, concerns, requirements and queries from any remote location.”
Keeping the weekend off also means not emailing or calling incessantly either. In India our email and calling etiquette means there can be no much needed switching off on the weekend.
My take is that it’s entirely possible and better in the long run to keep the weekend off, unless there is a crisis or big event, of course.