Having spent most of my career in journalism, knowing the perks and pitfalls of the job well, I wondered what to expect when I moved into PR – quite a lot where benefits are concerned, it appears
Blue Monday is a title given to the third Monday of every January, which is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. The rationale for this was based on a combination of Christmas festivities being over with, increased debt levels (presumably on the back of the former), being back at work, bad weather (even by UK standards) and the likely failure of new year’s resolutions by this point. Did I miss anything else?
Unsurprisingly this day was created by a travel company back in 2005 – because: OMG, go book yourself some winter sun to escape the gloom NOW – but 15 years later and Blue Monday still grabs headlines, which vary from survival guides, 99p Big Macs and declarations that the very concept is rubbish. Whatever you might think about the day, and whether you’ll be heading to McDonald’s for a discounted burger, there’s a fair argument that January – for all of the opportunities a fresh year on the calendar may bring – can be a bit of a shock to the system for many as routine strikes like a snowball to the back of the head.
To coincide with Blue Monday, recruiter Walters People conducted a survey of 3,000 professionals to reveal 90% of respondents would be open to a job offer at this time of year, although they’ve not actively been looking. Chief among the job satisfaction drivers were positive company culture, competitive salary and benefits package, and a good work-life balance at 70%, 69% and 68% respectively.
As a journalist – depending on the company – it’s quite common for benefits from the employer to extend only as far as the Christmas party, perhaps a summer soiree, the occasional after-work drink on the boss and maybe a takeaway for working long into the night.
Largely, the key advantage of being a journalist was having access to incredible people, experiences and opportunities. And in addition to trips to places such as Chicago, there were delights such as ice-cream, burritos and hampers that were sent to the office and the endless offers of coffee and booze that came through, which meant I’d have never needed to pay for a caramel frappuccino or cider again if the novelty didn’t wear off. But these are usually perks that come via a network or a PR and their client, rather than being clearly-defined benefits supplied by employers.
So, based on all of that, when I was a journalist it raised the question of: Is the grass greener on the other side? Do PRs get to enjoy such splendour they’re often lavishing on the press? Now that I’m on said other side I can say the grass is greener than the Incredible Hulk where benefits and culture from the employer is concerned.
I can’t speak for any other agency, but in the six months I’ve been at FieldHouse, I’ve been amazed by how welcomed I’ve been. I was especially touched when the regular order of beer and wine for weekly Thursday evening drinks had Bulmers and Old Mout added to the list to help me reach my five-a-day. Outside of drinks and food, which regularly sees fresh fruit, bagels, cereal and biscuits readily available for consumption, there’s more to it than that.
Every Friday is a working from home day. It’s not just something offered to a select few, it’s right across the board – hence the Thirsty Thursdays. It’s simple, but so effective. It means, for example, you can run those errands in your local area in the day or get straight on the road at 6pm for the weekend trip you’ve got planned.
Within my first week I’d been invited to participate in Tough Mudder with the team. And as a lover of a fitness and a man desperately trying to retain some semblance of health in fatherhood, I knew I’d landed on my feet. I was also invited to a welcome lunch with the team on day one too, which is a tradition for any new starters. It was a chance to understand the FieldHouse Way – a set of core values that underpin what the business stands for – as well as meet a handful of the team away from their desks and hear some of the classic stories from times past.
A month after joining, we moved from Waterloo to Seven Dials, entering a shiny new office. While not a perk at all, being in such a spacious and fresh locale is really invigorating. There’s no end of places to visit nearby, whether on lunch breaks or after-hours. And, speaking personally, my commute is tidier too, with the office minutes from the Central Line – although Piccadilly and Northern Line connections are also nearby.
As mentioned before, I’m a dad. And FieldHouse recognises that requires certain commitments outside of the office, so if that’s a working from home day, late arrival or early departure for the nursery run, or so on, it’s accommodated. The key thing that everyone here is respected and treated like adults. As long as the job is done, that’s what counts.
I’ve worked in places before where an editor was accosted for nipping out to grab a mid-morning coffee, while people would be pulled to one side and questioned about arriving to the office five minutes late, despite working at least five hours overtime over the week – sometimes in one night. That’s not a thing here. Want to grab your favourite peppermint peace tea from Pret? Go for it. Train delayed? Just send a message on Slack.
In fact, wellbeing is such a priority for the company that all staff receive a wellness benefit. That means over the course of the financial year, we’re allocated an amount to spend on items or experiences that make you happier or healthier at work, whether that’s studying languages, working up a sweat at fitness classes or otherwise. And with Mental Health Awareness Day in November, we were all pleasantly surprised to have received an email revealing a masseuse would be visiting the office to give us all a 15-minute massage to help take a breath and unwind.
More recently, based on the fact the team is growing at pace and not everyone gets to work together in a day-to-day capacity, Donut was introduced. It’s a tool through which staff are randomly paired up for time to grab a bite or a drink of their choosing (although anything other than a doughnut just seems wrong) and get to know each other outside of the office walls.