Sep 24th 2014

Part-time working in PR: how to juggle children and a career

Three years ago when I was thinking about returning to work after having my son, I spoke to various recruiters and people in the industry about my desire to work part-time so I could enjoy the best of both worlds – spending quality time with my little boy in his early years AND continuing to work and build a career (not to mention enjoying a hot cup of tea without being interrupted and some adult conversation that didn’t revolve around nappies!). It seemed my request was not going to be easy to fulfil.

I was told – as I had suspected – that most PR agencies won’t even consider employing people on a part-time basis (that’s not to say they wouldn’t allow flexible working for existing employees, but that wasn’t my situation). But, I was determined to get the work/life balance I wanted, and when I have my mind set on something I don’t give up easily!

Luckily for me, I was looking at the same time that Babel was recruiting. I’d already been for a few interviews at other agencies, but ultimately they weren’t able to offer me the flexibility I wanted. Babel was different and I have now been working here three days a week for more than three years.

In this time, I can’t think of any situations where this has proved detrimental to either my work, or the work we deliver as an agency. When I started I was the only part time employee in the company, but now there are several of us. Our philosophy is that we will make it work for the right people with the right talents and skills. After all, it is these people who are the lifeblood of any successful PR agency.

That’s why I think it’s great that the CIPR released its guide to flexible working earlier this month. According to the report, ‘in senior management roles, the industry is losing talented women at alarming rates, generally at about the time they reach their thirties and attempt to juggle family life with the demands of modern-day practice’.

This makes for depressing reading when you consider that 66 percent of the PR workforce is female. What’s more, it’s not just about accommodating working mothers – there are also working fathers who wish to share the childcare, and other employees with various different reasons to request flexible working.

Working in technology PR, we extol the benefits of flexible working for clients regularly. But even for those agencies operating in other sectors, the advantages are well documented from happier and more engaged staff, to more innovation and fewer sick days – what’s not to like?

Talking specifically about part time working, there are some in the industry who will say that PR is not a job that can be done on a part time basis. Clients will always have demands that fall outside of working hours or on the days you’re not in the office, and the 24 hour news agenda and increasing need to respond in real-time, mean that we need to be on call to deal with any issues as and when they arise.

I disagree. Not with the fact that we need to respond quickly and provide clients with out of hours counsel when required, but with the fact that this makes part time working impossible. With a good team, there will always be someone available to speak to the client or media when needed, and by enabling employees to work flexibly, we’re much more committed to our jobs and willing to juggle commitments to make ourselves available when needed to ensure the job gets done.