Talking to corporate comms leaders, we get a strong sense that the line of professionalism between employer and employee has blurred since the pandemic. Hybrid working has shifted ‘power’ from the employer to the employee, as employees clearly express if they are happy to come into the office or not. The competitive nature of business has been diluted, and comms professionals are enjoying the balance that hybrid working is offering them; however, bosses are complaining about teams feeling like ‘happy families’ rather than being driven and ambitious in exciting places of work. Have we relaxed into being happy families with bosses acting more like parents than leaders?
There is a fine line between what is deemed as professional and unprofessional behaviour in the office. Professional lines are subtle and different generations hold differing values and priorities. We know that. Communication agencies and in-house teams are going out of their way to listen to their employees and have put hybrid working in place. Most are enjoying more flexibility and balance in their lives. However, bosses are regaling us with stories about employees who are stepping over the professional line. Getting everyone back to the office on the days agreed isn’t easy and teams are ‘cruising’.
We are hearing that some agency bosses are being challenged by their ‘lazy teams’ not wanting to come into the office for the three-day hybrid working policy, averaging instead only two days. One MD talked about how an Account Manager didn’t fancy being in the office four days a week as required and argued their case saying they ‘much prefer to be at home’ as they felt ‘more efficient’.
We have heard Heads of Comms say that it’s a stretch to get directors in for the minimum number of days as they moved out of London and had children during Covid and don’t want to come in and do the hours.
A Head of PR at a large property company talked about employees ‘suiting themselves’. “Train strikes, tube strikes, teacher’s strikes and the increasing prices of travel and nursery costs are making parents’ commutes difficult and more costly. However, these disruptions are being used as an excuse for a ‘free pass’ to work from home.”
They went on to explain, “If I ask a team member to make a meeting on Thursday in the office, I don’t want to hear that they are working from home that day and they will ‘have to change their day’. Team members are sending out requests for two-hour Zoom meetings. Who wants to spend two hours on Zoom? It’s not appropriate.” Other gripes include employees wandering in halfway through the morning after dropping off children and then not working the other end of the day because of the long commute; employees suggesting that everyone should work from home on tube strike days…wait a minute, isn’t this a boss’s job?
If you are guilty of any of the above, do stop for a second, and think how your boss will interrupt this behaviour. If you want to be taken seriously as a comms professional and you are shooting for progression, or just want to do a good job, then take time to think about how you're coming across at work and if your attitude is perhaps a little relaxed.
In short, be careful of crossing the professional line. The working world may have changed drastically since the pandemic, but your boss is still your boss. They have had to roll with all the changes, but they are still the same person, wanting respect and seen to be leading a motivated team. There has been a shift in power, and we know some bosses are trying to reclaim it. We hear of CEOs organising company away days, reminding employees of why they are there, what they're heading towards, how they fit in and what is required of them. They talk about how it’s ‘time to shake up the team’ and the ‘need to reset.’ If there was ever a time to think about your professionalism and how you’re coming across, it’s now. No boss wants to be treated like a parent, so take care with how you are representing yourself and if you need to reset, do it before your boss asks.
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