So you’re in PR and Comms? It’s a service industry and so you have to be at the end of a ‘phone or email.   But how do you protect against burnout?  Staff retention is a key concern for most agency heads and so a route many are taking is to introduce more flexible working in a bid to help improve work-life balance for their employees.

See below for the combined thoughts as discussed at the recent PRCA HR Forum hosted at Lansons and organized by Claire Sherry, Hanover Communications and Anna Maclaren, Lexis PR.

 On the panel were Ruth Allchurch, MD, Cirkle, Lisa Elliot, Director, Lansons and Annabel Dunstan, Co Founder, Question & Retain.

 The panel were invited to share their thoughts on the back of Q&R’s Pulse Check™ conducted among 324 HR Directors/Managers in UK PR Consultancies.  The results are shown below.

 Tips for improving staff retention


  • Offer flexi time with early starts and late finishes depending on the individuals needs and preferences
  • Create parent rotas so nursery/school drop offs and pick ups are less stressful and guilt ridden
  • Promote working smarter not harder: results not presenteeism
  • Give time off in lieu following intense periods of activity
  • Compressed hours e.g. 5 days in 4
  • 9 day fortnights (9 days in 10)
  • 6.30pm cut off for leaving the office
  • Summer Friday’s finishing at 4.00pm
  • Attention to time sheets and capacity planning to ensure adequate cover


  • Remote working for those that have earned trust and can deliver results
  • Working from home – relies on being just as visible by email and by booking meetings on those days still – if the person goes underground ‘it ain’t gonna work’


  • It is not just about those with children, it’s about supporting all staff to have outside interests too
  • Agreed policy on emergency appointments and no questions raised for sports days, prize-giving etc.
  • Promote a healthy work life balance by inviting nutritionists in to share tips and give information on how to improve eating habits to boost immune system – particularly useful for junior recruits adjusting to working life
  • Create care packages to support intense client work e.g. vouchers for the individuals favorite things
  • Set up a buddy/mentor scheme to ensure problems are aired before they become crises.


  • Accessibility of senior people is important and so harness technology and be as responsive to your team as you are to clients
  • Leverage technology e.g. laptops and company mobiles as it allows people greater flexibility and visibility – it is how your clients work after all!


  • Create an environment that your team feel proud of and enjoy, from bean bag break out areas and a well stocked fridge to sparkly toilet seats!

Naturally many of these ideas have arisen as they suit the culture and personalities of the consultancies that have introduced them, but can perhaps serve as a useful spring-board to discussions on how to do things differently to help staff improve their work-life balance.  The consensus among the HR Forum panel was that having a trial period for any initiative was a good way to go. 

The debate was rich and varied, but the comment that sums it up:

‘Time sheet monitoring and being informed about how employees are feeling are very important, but these alone won’t resolve the issue unless the root cause of the long hours culture is understood. The cause may vary from agency to agency, but if it’s an ingrained practice, then a focus on changing the culture will be required’.

 Food for thought. I’m off to the dentist.