A recent Media Bullseye article considered potential alternatives to the traditional PR workplace model. Among the suggestions were opting for a virtual firm, where all the employees worked remotely, rather than a traditional office.
Although this may work as an alternative for some firms, it is not quite possible for others. Some firms, especially those that have a global network of offices, require a physical office space for more effective operations.
Even if your firm doesn’t have offices across the world, you may find that a physical office space, rather than a virtual workplace, has advantages.
Benefits of the traditional office
Although changing approaches to the traditional workplace model and enhanced technology facilitate easier remote work, there are disadvantages to this type of work. One of the major downfalls of working remotely and holding virtual meetings is attempting to connect with colleagues using communication tools that can be unreliable.
A physical office, however, allows team members to be within walking distance of one another. Having the ability to talk with a colleague in person eliminates the need for long email chains to coordinate schedules for meetings or to share ideas about a project.
Additionally, in person conversations have an ease and flow that conversations over voice or video calls lack. In-person meetings enable easier sharing of visual aids, especially those that are not digital, as hard copies are challenging to share via email or tools like Slack. Generally, in-person work creates a better environment for collaborating with coworkers.
With these advantages in mind, there are some additions or alterations that can be made to the office environment to foster even greater collaboration and satisfaction within a PR office.
Allow access to natural light
Having ample access to natural light throughout the workday can have significant benefits to employee health, happiness, and productivity.
A study conducted by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that day-shift office employees who have access to sunlight during the day slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. Getting more sleep can contribute to better health and productivity during the day. Additionally, those who sat closer to windows tended to include more physical activity in their day than those who don’t sit near a window, further contributing to better health.
Some offices unfortunately don’t have the setup that allows every employee to sit near patches of sunlight. Instead, promoting an outdoor break can be beneficial to focus and productivity throughout the day.
Walking meetings can be an excellent way to get some time in the sunshine while still getting work done. A 2013 TED Talk by Nilofer Merchant explained the benefits, including improved physical health and enhanced creativity, of conducting meetings in this fashion. These meetings have gained popularity with larger PR firms such as Ketchum, as well as prominent business leaders including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.
Structuring your office in a manner that filters natural light or planning your day to include some outdoor time can enhance mood and lead to greater productivity.
Research has found that having plant life in an office can improve mood and productivity. A paper published in 2014, for example, detailed a study conducted about the effects of placing houseplants in offices.
The study visited three workplaces in the UK and Netherlands over the course of a year and a half. The offices studied were initially sparse, lacking decoration or plants. The researchers introduced plants to these spaces, and following the addition of plants, employees scored higher on memory retention and other basic tests.
Additionally, another study found that greenery in offices reduces stress and negative emotions in employees.
Adding plant life to your own office can positively impact the mood and work of those in your office.
As cited in another previous Media Bullseye article discussing adaptations of the PR workplace model, an increasing number of offices are modifying schedules by allowing their employees to work remotely on certain days of the week. A rotating schedule of at-home work provides a flexible workweek for employees, while still maintaining a physical space for team members to work collaboratively on specific days.
An in-person workspace enhances the collaboration and innovation from PR teams. Creating an office space that promotes happier, healthier, and more productive employees, specifically by adding plants, facilitating access to natural light, and allowing a balance of in-office and remote work, creates a positive environment for PR work.