From ‘back to work’ orders to hybrid hype, office life is the subject of a tense debate. In some places, at least.
Headlines stated last week that Nike is one of the latest big brands to order its employees to return to its office for four days a week.
In the UK, the government is advising local authorities against trialling a four-day working week. It seems only one council is doing this at the time of writing, however.
Neither of these things point to a widespread trend, but parties with an interest in the debate tend to seize on them. For those familiar with office life before the pandemic, how and where we work is a live and intensely personal question. Organisations are trying to find the best approach for their teams and customers, often amidst confusing or unhelpful guidance.
In the spirit of flexible working, they should be prepared to experiment, collaborate and tweak their approaches. Much of the current debate – in the media at least – doesn’t allow for this. Sadly, working life is ensnared in the latest culture war pitting office workers against the ‘woke from home’ brigade. The reality, as always, is more nuanced.
This is the context into which proposals for a four-day working week step in. The four-day week shouldn’t be confused with compressed hours, which enable staff to work their contracted time across fewer days. The difference here is that employers pay staff a full time rate for spending four days working. Supporters say this helps attract top talent, retain staff and boost employee engagement. This piece has some great case studies. Trials by governments in Wales and Scotland will examine these points further.
Despite the headlines, it’s not caught on widely yet. I get why it’s popular amongst staff who value work-life blance. I also understand the concerns behind the questions it raises.
Continue reading “Five questions for teams considering a four-day week”
Criticising sloganeering, with a campaign slogan strewn across a podium and a screen on the wall.
Lamenting ‘government by headline’ while sharing several social media posts designed to drive (no pun) the net zero narrative.
Decrying how politics is done as political aides feed MPs attack lines in readiness for battle with opponents.
As a comms professional, these inconsistencies stuck after the substance of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s net zero speech sank in.
The way politics is done today – short term, obsessed with headlines, shrouded in spin – fails the country, he said. Who, honestly, would disagree with that?
Therein lies the problem, because it made what followed Mr Sunak’s opening remarks a travesty. In setting a dividing line for Labour ahead of the general election, he can’t credibly claim to be thinking long-term at all.
More than ever, it demonstrated that the old way of communicating is alive and kicking. Labour posted a mock-up of Sunak in Liz Truss’ pocket, but hasn’t charged into battle.
We are already seeing that the facts around the impact of these policies get lost in the noise. Few people seem persuaded as advocates and opponents double down on their views.
Far from bringing in a new approach to politics, I fear we can expect more of this in the coming months.
Continue reading “New slogans, same old spin: Sunak’s net zero PR problem”
I’ve taken time to read the House of Commons Committee of Privileges’ partygate report into Boris Johnson’s conduct. It prompted me to write to my MP James Heappey (Conservative, Wells) to ask him to back the committee’s recommendation and stand with his parliamentary colleagues. This is my letter.
I write to you as a parent, small business owner and someone who has always believed that politics can be a force for good.
I have been fortunate to work with MPs and councillors from all parties throughout my professional life. Thanks to this, I know there are many decent politicians who care about the communities they represent.
As my local MP, you will represent me on Monday when voting on the Privileges Committee’s recommendation to suspend Boris Johnson’s parliamentary pass following their investigation into his conduct.
Having taken the time to read the committee’s report, I urge you to support its recommendation.
Continue reading “Letter to James Heappey MP: stand with parliament on Monday”
However tough it is, saying sorry for a mistake is the right thing to do.
When things go wrong, a timely genuine apology can repair reputational damage and restore trust.
It helps if the words are heartfelt and backed up by a commitment to put things right. Comms professionals sometimes describe this as ‘owning a crisis’.
Being sincere. Taking ownership. Committing to putting things right. Learning lessons. We hail these as the steps to reputational redemption, whatever the problem.
But, as we’ve witnessed recently, reality and personality can get in the way of a textbook approach. April saw a spate of missteps followed by apologies, with varying degrees of success. In sharing these examples, we offer no comment on the events which led to the apologies. They speak for themselves and generated miles of copy already.
This is all about the contrition, and how it went down.
Continue reading “The hard truth about apologies: your reputation rests on them”
A version of this post first appeared in Bristol 24/7’s Your Say section on 24 April. Thanks to them for taking these thoughts about a hot topic for the city.
Like many things in Bristol, there are mixed opinions online about news that the once grand (but now derelict) Grosvenor Hotel is to be demolished.
Bristol247 followed Bristol mayor Marvin Rees’ announcement that demolition will happen after years of wrangling, asking: should [the hotel] have been saved?
As owner of a small business based across the road from the building, who has worked in the area since 2010, I felt moved to respond to that question.
Continue reading “It’s sad, but right, to say goodbye to the Grosvenor Hotel”
Confusing. Evasive. Flat-footed. Vague! Communicators often come in for criticism during moments of crisis.
Several high-profile examples hit the headlines since our last newsletter. They always stir up debate in our office, and amongst our PR friends.
First up is the BBC’s response to Gary Lineker’s tweet criticising the government’s small boats policy. I’ve included it below, without passing comment on it, to be clear on what was (and wasn’t) said.
The BBC’s late statement, its tone and inconsistent application of its social media policies stoked a culture war and damaged relations with government and staff. Former BBC news editor and Number 10 Director of Comms Craig Oliver (£) sets out a level-headed assessment of the situation which seemed absent at the height of the crisis. His points: make time to prioritise decisions. Move quickly and decisively. Accept there is no perfect solution that will please everyone.
Commentators also mentioned comms’ role – or lack of – in former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s evasive and tetchy performance at the privileges committee of MPs’ investigation into the Partygate scandal. In fairness, and as I’ve mentioned before, we’re well past the stage of blaming a culture of ministerial evasion on comms people. This has happened for years and needs changing.
And this report from the Housing Ombudsman into Catalyst Housing’s complaints handling and aftercare makes important points around poor communication, sharing information, tone and language. It points to a sector under pressure, created steadily in the absence of effective regulation over the last decade. Many comms people have warned of these risks. Sector leaders must own them now.
Continue reading “Why your comms team deserves a ‘thank you’”