The PR sector is not exactly well known for its workplace culture. The hectic pace, the stress of dealing with clients and the media, the long hours all take their toll.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic that great harbinger of change has swept in an era of enlightened workplace policies in the PR sector.
Mental health care, parental policies and paid Covid leave are just some of the benefits PR firms in India are offering professionals.
Inclusive parental leave
Asif Upadhye - director, SPRD is a strong advocate for inclusive and supportive workplace policies.
He says, "Our strength lies in celebrating parenthood, no matter how diverse – from birth to surrogates, foster, adoptive, and even commissioning parent(s). Understanding that being a parent demands an emotional, biological, and psychological change, we provide our people with paid time off to make a seamless transition into being a parent. One thing we have focused on is ensuring that people's appraisals do not get affected when they return. Plus, in the unfortunate event of a stillbirth, miscarriage, or medical termination of pregnancy, there are extra provisions."
Tapan's Vyas - Sr. Design Manager, Never Grow Up (Holding company of SPRD) is the first to avail of this parental leave under the inclusive policy at this firm and feels it is much required for men as well as women, "Being a parent is a life changing experience and calls for a special kind of attention from both the person availing parental leave and the organization at which they work. A lot of my friends working in the industry always tell me that their organizations are keen on rolling out a policy like this, but when it comes to actually executing it, they don't really do so. For them, just the thought of taking maternity/paternity leave and coming back to a different work environment is an added stressor."
|A glimpse of the new shape of Workplace benefits|
|Inclusive parental leave including both maternal and paternal leave|
|Paid Leave for those affected by Covid-19|
|Special Leave provisions: No questions asked paid hours off|
|Counsellors on call|
|Vaccines paid for by the organisation|
|Four days work week|
|Pet parent leave|
|Office supplies for WFH including furniture|
|Work from Home options|
Redesigning work hours , special leave options
While some of the measures were introduced just for Covid-19, many of the measures around flexible work hours, long weekends, parental leave, paid time off over and above vacation days and counsellors on board are here to stay.
Abhishek Shankar, national HR director Avian WE shares that apart from paid Covid leave and monthly period leave, "We are extending 8 hours of paid time-off every quarter for self-care, to do whatever our people want - re-energise, tackle personal to-dos or just sleep."
Sunayna Malik, managing director, India and senior vice president, APAC at Archetype says that, "During the second wave of the pandemic, we started a special initiative called #MyLongWeekend which offered extended weekends to each employee over the months of May and June 2021."
Tanya Swetta, co-founder & CEO, id8 Media Solutions says, "We have introduced a 5 day work week in a hybrid model based on a deep study of our team (or employee) sentiment, with that of our clients and our advisory board."
Shalini Jain, account director, 80 dB Communications shared that her organisation declared it a four day week for a full month in May 2021.
Jain shares, "We’ve been back to work now for a couple of weeks and recently invited paw professionals - therapy dogs, to the office for some R&R."
While period leave can be controversial, with some women seeing it as tokenism, many organisations in India are offering it.
Speaking about the rationale behind the initiative, Girish Balachandran, founder, ON PURPOSE said, “ON PURPOSE was founded to use communications to drive social change in India. Menstruation is a taboo topic in most of India and this is our attempt to break the stigma and normalise conversations, starting first at home (our work place). Nobody should feel uncomfortable telling people internally that they are on period leave. If anyone faces any kind of discrimination or harassment because of it, they must immediately report it to HR and our Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) committee will take this up, immediately.”
Firms like Avian WE offer two WFH days a month as period leave.
Remote working, Medical Benefits
Malik also shared that Archetype has partnered with telemedicine player SeekMed and set-up a special desk for its employees to enable quick and easy access and consultation at the company’s cost, for employees and their dependants.
Mental Health Support
One of the most neglected issues at work has been mental health. However, the pandemic has encourages policy initiatives by PR firms.
Upadhyay says, "We have had an in-house counsellor as a part of our employee promise, before conversations around mental health became the norm. Whether it is access to health insurance for or a certified counsellor at your service, the holistic development of our team is what ensures that we continue to deliver on our promise to clients."
Malik agrees saying, "Covid had also taken a toll on the mental well-being of people hence we launched Lifeworks initiative for our employees to be able to seek access to trained psychologists and counsellors for a variety of issues including work life/ domestic issues etc. Additionally, Archetype restructured the medical insurance cover and have increased it significantly."
The pandemic has been a tipping point for companies to take a closer look at what makes their employees happy and put in flexibility and support for them.
PR firms have been quick to catch up and put in measures, measures that will hopefully become widespread.