Getting post-pandemic work-life balance right - Nick Freer
Following two years of the pandemic, it’s noticeable from Zoom calls alone that growing numbers of people are back in the office. I’ve had a few meetings back in clients’ offices, although relatively few and far between, and still outnumbered by coffees, lunches and the occasional dinner in the city centre.
I think there can be a notion that PR people are always out wining and dining and, while this can be true to an extent, I’m always happiest at my desk, getting through the actual work. Next week, we are handling four, possibly five, client announcements, and there is a lot of groundwork that goes into each. I love a long lunch as much as the next guy or gal, and there is definitely a place for them, but I prefer to be in control of the ongoing drafts and email chains from in front of my computer screen.
Pre-pandemic, I can remember days of coffees, lunches, oftentimes a dinner or event the same evening. On reflection, it was too much. I would end up way behind the curve, working into the evening, and on the weekends. Post-pandemic, I know I need to introduce more balance.
Of course, there can be a downside to spending too much time holed up at home if remote working becomes your thing. Working from my office at home last week, I realised I had not left the house for a couple of days. Nor was it the first time, and I’m pretty sure that isn’t recommended or, more importantly, healthy.
This week, I got to catch up in person with my main contacts at fast growth tech group Stellar Omada. A mid-morning coffee in the zen-like surrounds of the Roku Gin Japanese garden at Tigerlily on George Street was a nice working break from the laptop, and we agreed that meeting up in person trumped the many video calls we’ve done over the last couple of years. Caffeined up, I was ready to rip into the ‘to do’ list that afternoon.
The one dinner I did have this week, at Hawksmoor on St Andrew Square, was a chance to catch up with a client CEO over from New York and the managing director of a media publishing group. Cancelled flights and damned Covid had scuppered a couple of our previous dinner dates, and shooting the breeze over a glass of wine was the kind of human capital you just can’t replicate when talking through the screen of a device.
Another thing I’ve noticed the last few weeks, was how much I’ve missed seeing clients in person. Meeting up with the head of PR at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) the week before last, you remember how well you’ve got to know people, how much time you’ve spent with them over the years, the genuine interest you have in how they’ve been getting on with everything going on in the world.
A bit like my column this week, it’s not always about the ‘business chat’. While I won’t be giving up my day job to become a low-rate philosopher, surely business will always revolve around people, the human being, and empathy. Or, something like that.
Nick Freer is the founding director of strategic communications agency the Freer Consultancy
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