I read this blog post from Hacked Off Flack today called ‘Why kids ruin your PR career’ . The author had a poorly child and was wondering how to tell the boss that he/she wasn’t going to make it into work. The piece had some interesting insights into why kids ruin your PR career. And a lot of what was said is true. Particularly point number 3. But I’d like to give an alternate point of view.
Before kids, I used to work in London at a global PR agency specialising in the tech sector. I got to travel an hour each way on the M4. The hours were officially 9 – 6. But I usually got there at 7.30 to miss the traffic and would leave around 12 hours later. What fun! Then I had a baby and realised that there was no way I could do that anymore. Even if practically and emotionally I could manage to do it, those 12 hour days sitting in an office with a bunch of twenty-somethings giggling about who shagged who at a journalist drinks party just didn’t seem that interesting anymore. It was as though a veil had been taken off my eyes and I realised that there was a whole world out there that I hadn’t even realised existed.
So I set up Peekaboo. I wanted to work hours that suited me and my children. I wanted to work with products and services I understood and cared about (instead of the cloud computing and storage disks I had been doing in the past). But mostly I wanted to work with people who understood the challenges of being a working parent. All of our clients are parents. All of our freelancers are parents. Most of the journalists we work with are parents too.
Unlike the meetings I used to have, in which everyone got super dressed up and had snazzy Powerpoint presentations with impressive looking jargon scattered throughout them, these days most meetings are done over the phone during school hours or nap time. We wear whatever we want to wear – normally the mums’ uniform of jeans and semi-fashionable if slightly cereal-encrusted top. Conversations tend to start with a chat about life. How are the kids, advice on how to get rid of head lice, where to find a shepherd outfit, a sympathetic ear to hear the stresses of another night without sleep…and then we get into work. And no-one minds if you say: I have to cut this call short because it’s sports day today. Because they’ve been there too. And they get it.
Instead of affecting the results we get, it enhances them. We know we have a finite number of hours to get stuff done, so we focus and get on with it. In this sector in particular, it means we truly understand what our target market wants. But most of all, we feel balanced. That’s not to say we’re not tired and that it’s a pretty impressive juggling act at times, but it’s still so much more human than what I experienced before. And happy employees deliver more than unhappy ones.
Having run Peekaboo for almost five years now, I’ve started to take it for granted that this is how people work. But it’s not. Since posting a comment on the article above, I’ve been inundated with CVs from people who are looking for roles just like this (and sorry, I will get back to you soon!)
Why can’t more businesses understand that employees are human beings, not robots. Britain is a workaholic society. ‘The more hours you put in, the better you must be’. Surely it’s the results you achieve that counts, not the hours it took you do the work? While the Peekaboo model of working won’t suit all industries, I urge any companies out there who want to retain their staff – think about them as people first. Trust them to deliver. And you will be rewarded.
So did kids ruin my PR career? Am I earning less than I did before. Yes. Have I fallen several rungs down the career ladder. Probably. But is my career ruined? Nope. The opposite. Having children gave me the courage and freedom to change the way I work. You just need to redefine what a successful career looks like. And if it means having a life beyond your desk, then I’ve probably never been more successful!