The news agenda has finally moved on from the ‘return to normality’ which office landlords, whose profits prop up our pension funds, are hoping for. Whether cities ever return to their full bustle, or evolve into a less busy, if still pricey alternative to working from home, is irrelevant. The real debate is not where people work but how to work productively.
Our experience has been that face-to-face in-office interaction, which admittedly comes at the now increased cost of commuting, provides a much richer working environment. Our account teams value the transfer of implicit knowledge from more experienced leaders to fast-learning team members, that much is obvious.
What is less obvious, until you see it first-hand, is why that is so effective.
Humans, as we all discovered during lockdown, are extremely sociable creatures. And there is a lot of water cooler gossip, light-hearted banter and plain office fun to be had in-between call downs, campaign updates and pitch-writing here at Positive. The real magic is face-to-face coaching.
Enthusiasm for a great new idea which is grasped immediately by a team is far more impactful in a real huddle than on a sleepy Zoom call. In contrast, it is not easy to discern on an email if guidance is a minor correction, or a real cause for concern. There is no such confusion face-to-face. Equally gentle reminders are more effective if repeated live, as opposed to the next time a manager moves from Slack to Zoom and returns to their email for a few minutes.
Likewise, exasperation with a doomed strategy is best communicated from junior to senior team members in an honest, physical sit down, often after witnessing the herculean efforts made to try to make it work. It is perhaps even better as a conduit of learning the other way around, when the senior leaders finally understand why they need to change strategy and the junior sees their feedback valued by decisive management.
But of course, in the world of PR, office-life is only one part of the job. There are client meetings, press meetings and even cross-discipline brainstorming sessions, which are all better run in person.
IRL Client meetings
Who would not say the level of preparation, in-meeting attention levels and follow-up are not up-levelled by meeting clients face-to-face? Yet post-lockdown these seem to be harder to schedule than ever.
IRL Press meetings
Many media commentators are, of course, freelance and work from home. With fewer reasons to be ‘in town’, prising them onto trains for face-to-face meetings is understandably harder. Even for the larger outlets, insisting on a return to the office, the appeal of an after-work or lunchtime meeting has waned it seems. However, given the value of ‘getting to know’ the media and the way in which future opportunities to comment inevitably emerge from such encounters, we are doubling down on this.
IRL Cross-discipline brainstorms
Some of the most productive meetings in the world of integrated B2B tech marketing have to be campaign, or Strike, planning. Especially sessions Involving experts in various disciplines.
- SEO can teach PR how to make Google’s spider rate its media coverage.
- Field marketing team can help analyst relations teams understand what works for real-life leads, so they can pass it on.
- The Branding team is perfectly placed to inspire their marketing peers on what different really looks like.
Overall, we know returning to a five day week may be a pipedream. As is the fact office rents will not drop to reflect reduced occupancy. However, we have copious examples of the benefits of IR. We like to think the smart usage of IRL and WFH will result in the best of all options; a happy, productive, constantly-learning and client-adored team.