Welcome to autumn: A time when public relations professionals and their clients return to their work-a-day worlds and business-not-so-casual apparel, all lamenting the return to “cube-ville” and the noticeable lack of sand beneath their collective flip flops.
But what if the flip-flops became career-chic? What if client meetings at the beach – or at least in a setting absent stuffy corporate culture – was the norm? What if you never went back to the office again?
It’s not that outlandish of a theory. Mobile technology has empowered employees with the ability to hold meetings and prepare documents using little more than a smartphone. Today’s technology increasingly promises to reduce or eliminate tomorrow’s commute.
Some PR agencies gather only a few times per week in the office for meetings while working from home for the rest of the time. Future generations in the communications field might not even set foot in a physical office if they can complete all work virtually.
Think about it. The virtual workplace would save on time, gas, coffee — and the priceless frustration of traffic or crowded subways.
Moreover, working remotely could actually increase employee engagement. That’s what Edinger Consulting Group founder, Scott Edinger, recently discovered. In his blog, Edinger wrote of feedback from an investment firm with which his firm worked that said employees were actually more engaged and committed while working outside their workplace than when they spent eight or more hours per day in the office.
While office employees are just doorways apart, remote employees who are motivated must work harder to reach out to and connect with their co-workers. This typically yields better results in terms of efficiency and focus. The email and phone encounters of remote workers tend to be more brief and direct, maximizing their time spent together.
Although working remotely might look good on paper as a time and money saver, there can be downsides. Entrepreneur Magazine points out in an article that a business’ valuable information, literally held in employees’ hands, can be hacked, stolen or lost in a moment.
However, as both personal and business matters increasingly move into the cloud, it’s reasonable to conclude employees working remotely will not significantly tip the scales of data security for businesses already operating in this space. Technical issues aside, the social aspect of office environments must not be overlooked. Beyond just getting out of the house (and your pajamas), it’s also about the interaction with co-workers and collaboration that can sometimes only result from face-to-face meetings and hallway conversations.
All that being said, if there is a sector of the workforce best positioned to lead the charge of remote workspaces it is public relations. Our work is defined by relationships, and we’ve been trained to overcome a wide range of barriers to forming those relationships. Whether we work to bridge the distance between cultures, generations, work environments or geography, public relations professionals are always striving to build relationships untethered from the barriers that might separate many others.