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The Future Is Flexible: Offices Aren’t Going Away, But Remote Work Is Here to Stay

September 9, 2021
By Maggie Steinheimer

COVID-19 required companies to retrofit existing remote work policies. Now, it’s time to redesign them.

The pandemic has shifted nearly every aspect of life, and the workplace has been no exception. In the early days of COVID-19, many companies transitioned teams to a remote setup seemingly (or literally) overnight – inciting workplace shifts that might’ve taken years under normal circumstances. And while the changes to our working environments might have been immediate, they are anything but fleeting.  

As COVID-19 pressed companies to keep offices closed, a realization swept through the workforce: many roles can be fulfilled successfully from almost anywhere. In fact, a Conference Board study found 59% of employers surveyed reported a productivity increase since transitioning to remote work in 2020. And the flexibility was widely appreciated. According to MetLife, when employees were free to balance life’s needs through remote working, a majority (71%) reported feeling a greater sense of trust from their employer.

In short: remote work worked.

Fast Forward to 2021

Although the Delta variant has complicated matters as of late, offices started to reopen, and employees and employers alike have been considering new policies – expressing interest in long-term flexible work environments … as well as concerns. For example, some feel that working from home more closely resembles living at work. According to FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence and Talent + Transformation report, “The New Social Contract,” 58% of employees report regularly balancing taking care of family and job needs at the same time – blurring the boundaries of work and home life and risking burnout

Others miss the social interaction and collaborative opportunities of a shared workspace. A global study of more than 2,700 employees found 75% feel more socially isolated as a result of the pandemic. Still, research shows an overwhelming majority of individuals who worked remotely due to COVID-19 prefer to maintain that flexibility, and aren’t ready to give it up.

What’s at Stake? Your Workforce. 

While some companies are promising more flexibility than ever, others are doubling down on the importance of working in an office environment. But what’s at risk if employees are confronted with the demand to return to offices and abandon the flexibility they grew accustomed to over the past year? A Bloomberg survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if employers weren’t flexible about remote work. (Among millennials and Generation Z, that figure rose to 49%.)

Building a Culture of Connection in a Hybrid Workplace 

The good news: Physical and remote workplaces can coexist in a new era of flexibility. Companies are combining virtual and on-site work in new and exciting ways. And while not every employer will have massive budget to overhaul office setups and navigate logistical nightmares, there’s one essential tool any company can afford to improve: internal communication. 

Consider the following best practices for communicating clearly about new working models and effectively engaging a hybrid workforce: 

  • Focus on flexibility. Everyone and every job is different … and there’s no one-size-fits-all workplace model. Instead, employers should take inventory of unique workforces and the need to find common ground between what success looks like for both people and companies. 
  • Establish trust. “The New Social Contract” found nearly 30% of employees surveyed feel they are not trusted by their employers to maintain work-life balance. Leadership should lead the charge in shifting perceptions about flexibility with targeted communications. 
  • Engage employees. Engagement tactics might look different than before – but could be even more important as teams face potential disconnect. Employers should stay in contact, offer professional development opportunities, inspire ambassadorship and consider new virtual tools for collaboration.
  • Act with empathy. As employees continue navigating the pandemic and its resulting challenges, companies should infuse care into culture by communicating with an empathetic tone. It’s important to stay cognizant about how major work changes will potentially affect life at home – and to provide ample notice and detailed rational, as possible.  
  • Appreciate and recognizeCelebrating employee successes by outwardly recognizing a job well done is a powerful tool. Whether selected by leadership or establishing a peer-nominated program, companies can use recognition programs to motivate teams. 
  • Listen up. Companies should ensure employees have a voice with increased listening tactics like launching pulse surveys, hosting focus groups, collecting anonymous feedback or encouraging leaders to host skip-level meetings within their organizations. Feedback is crucial to maintaining and improving culture. 
  • Care for the frontlineNot every industry can operate in a hybrid environment. For millions of frontline workers, there are few alternative options to showing up in person. Companies should take care to provide targeted internal communications and support to these audiences, especially if other members of the team can enjoy more flexibility. 

Workplace flexibility is becoming increasingly important in creating an inclusive culture, driving employee engagement and attracting high-quality talent. And while we can’t be certain what the future holds, successful employers will continue to evolve to meet the blended needs of a hybrid workforce – meeting employees wherever they are.


Setting the Foundation for Post-Pandemic Culture: Putting Return-to-Workplace Planning to the Test

July 1, 2021
By Zack Kavanaugh

Many organizations have spent the past year preparing, planning and developing policies to support a successful return to the workplace — but planning is just the beginning. With the vaccine becoming more broadly available in many countries, COVID-19 cases declining and economies reopening, these plans are being put to the test. Now is the time to focus on what you can do to deliver a smooth experience, support employees and minimize business disruption.


As with every other phase of the pandemic, vigilance and flexibility are key. It’s important to monitor key areas as you begin welcoming more team members back to ensure measures are creating the intended result: a safe, productive work environment.

  • In-office safety measures: Even as cases decline in some areas and people feel more comfortable resuming pre-pandemic activities, many people still have anxieties about the health implications of returning to workplaces. To protect employees and avoid issues, take the time to evaluate your safety and health measures.
    • Pay attention to whether safety precautions are being followed and whether they’re accessible and realistic as more employees return. Consider new ways to drive accountability for these safety behaviors.
    • Communicate policies and protocols clearly. If you’re taking a phased approach to return, re-communicate at the start of each phase, because employees who did not feel comfortable returning in earlier phases may not have paid close attention when the protocols were first communicated.
    • Facilitate two-way dialogue to gauge feelings about safety by encouraging open doors with leadership and managers, conducting pulse surveys and offering ways for employees to ask questions and provide feedback.
  • Company alignment: In the midst of your return efforts, it’s easy to get distracted by the minutiae. Take a step back and consider the larger picture: do your approach, protocols and communications align with your commitments as an organization — your mission, purpose and values?
    • Throughout the process, ensure you communicate how decisions and protocols support your values and business. Take care not to value — or appear to value — business outcomes over employee well-being and safety.


Employers are having an especially difficult time retaining talent. Over the years, and increasingly throughout the pandemic, employees have placed increasing importance on less-tangible elements, like culture. As employees return, understand that the pandemic has changed expectations, put stress on existing culture and relationships, and introduced new challenges. As your organization and employees navigate through change and settle into the “new normal,” culture must remain an active priority.

Your communications efforts — what you communicate about and how — can reinforce or contradict the culture you want to create and sustain.    

Stay Connected

Regardless of your return-to-workplace approach, focus on ensuring strong connections between employees — whether they’re back in the office, still working from home or in a hybrid model. Remind managers to regularly check in on their employees to see how they’re adjusting. Continue to use virtual meeting technologies, including video, to bring the entire team together — and give special care to your new team members to make them feel welcomed and included.

Practice Empathy

While your organization may be eager to resume in-person activities, remember that some of your employees experienced significant loss or hardship and most are returning with mixed emotions. A Limeade study found that 100% of employees had anxieties about returning — ranging from reduced flexibility to childcare solutions to safety measures.

Set the appropriate tone in your return-to-workplace communications. Focus on the positives to create optimism for the future but avoid being overly celebratory as it could turn off employees who have faced and are still facing pandemic-related challenges.

Prepare Leaders

The pandemic has challenged leaders to communicate with their teams in new ways and for many that has led to more authentic connection. Challenge leaders to continue to communicate empathetically and authentically, and to be sensitive to heightened levels of stress. Encourage them to maintain a proactive dialogue to keep their teams aware of and aligned to business priorities. Equally important, have them continue to share their life experiences and express their gratitude.

Equip Managers for the Future Environment

Managers are employees’ most trusted source of information and employees will look for their reactions on the return plan. Engage managers to gain their buy-in and provide them with tools to help communicate expectations and rationale. And because they see and hear employee sentiment first-hand, empower them to collect feedback and share it with leadership.

In hybrid work environments, managers will also face new challenges managing a dispersed team — ranging from unconscious bias toward in-person colleagues to failing to communicate with remote reports. Partner with HR or Learning Development to equip managers to lead fairly and effectively, no matter where their teams are located.  

Right now, as employee support for returning greatly varies and only a small percentage want to return to a traditional office on a full-time basis, no one quite understands what a successful return to work looks like. What is known now is that employers must constantly measure and reevaluate the return as an ongoing imperative.

To ensure the ongoing safety and alignment of your employees, return-to-workplace planning must become an evolving aspect of culture, instead of a temporary corporate initiative.


The Impact of Grassroots Sports Closures on Communities

June 14, 2021

Following the second postponement of sport at all ages, local communities were struggling to keep grassroots sports alive. Participants across the country were left with a sporting void, denying them the chance to exercise, socialise and meet. The impact on local communities was massive, but what can external stakeholders such as brands and organisations do? […]

The post The Impact of Grassroots Sports Closures on Communities appeared first on United Kingdom.


First Year at a Job and it had to Be 2020!

June 11, 2021

Most people will agree the year 2020 is in the running to be claimed the worst year in modern history. The year that felt like a test we didn’t study for, the year that had people stocking up on copious amounts of toilet paper, the year that changed our ways of working and for me the year that changed how I started a new PR job. […]

The post First Year at a Job and It Had to Be 2020! appeared first on South Africa.


How New Mask Guidance Should Impact Your Return-to-Workplace Plans

May 26, 2021

The recently updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for fully vaccinated individuals has sparked conversation and controversy, causing employers to take a fresh look at return-to-workplace plans. For employers with in-person operations — or looking to resume in-person — consider the following:

  • Expect employees to hold different opinions. Reports show many workers continue to have serious concerns when it comes to the safety of returning to the workplace. A study conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics in early May of approximately 8,000 people across industries found that while 48% of people felt comfortable returning to work as long as they were vaccinated, another 35% felt their co-workers needed to be vaccinated to feel safe, 34% reported a need for social distancing and 33% wanted mandatory mask policies.
    At the same time, the updated guidance has sparked concern that unvaccinated individuals may use the guidance to remove masks too, potentially exacerbating the safety concerns of others.
  • Collect input on your employees’ vaccination rate and comfort level. Conduct a survey or consider tracking vaccination rates to inform any safety decisions. Consider the following:
    • Vaccination rate: Reporting on the percentage of vaccinated employees will inform whether new guidance has relevance in your workplace. However, employers should be cautious when requesting such information and limit the inquiry to need-to-know information that will fuel decision-making. Employers should also ensure they maintain confidentiality and, prior to unrolling such an initiative, consult with their legal team.
    • Sentiment on health and safety: Asking employees how they feel about current safety measures should inform — but not be the sole determining factor for — decisions about safety policies and procedures.
  • Adhere to regulations. City and local governments have reacted and will continue to react in different ways throughout the pandemic. Closely follow updates and consult your legal team to ensure any policies you enact are still in compliance with local regulations and employment and labor laws.


According to FleishmanHillard’s latest TRUE Global Intelligence and Talent + Transformation report, “The New Social Contract,” three of the five most important elements of the employee-employer relationship are communication-driven, with “receiving accurate and honest communications” ranking as the top element for employees. Consider the following approaches that embrace accuracy and honesty — and will help drive internal alignment, employee trust and adoption of desired behaviors — as you continue communicating return-to-workplace plans:

  • Strike the appropriate tone. Less restrictive mask guidance has been welcome news to many but raises safety concerns for some. Before planning a celebration, keep in mind that many people are still struggling — physically, mentally, emotionally.
  • Proactively share options. If you decide to mandate vaccinations, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws require employers to provide accommodations for those who cannot be vaccinated for health or religious reasons. Be prepared to communicate how employees can seek accommodation. Conversely, if you drop mask mandates altogether, others may not feel safe coming into work, so consider what options you will provide to address those concerns.
  • Explain policy differences. Whether because of working environment (front-line vs. office-based) or due to differences in local regulations, separate health and safety policies may exist for different employee groups. Communicate policy variances transparently, explaining the need and rationale for targeted approaches. In locations where separate policies may also exist for visitors or customers, provide clarity on how policies impact employees. But use care not to put customer safety above that of employee safety.
  • Communicate other safety and health precautions. While masks are at the forefront of the conversation, they are not the only safety precaution. Provide clarity on how your approach to masks does or does not impact other policies or procedures. Reinforcing why some safety policies remain in place will demonstrate a continued commitment to creating a safe environment for employees, customers, visitors and business partners. This may include testing requirements, social distancing and travel policies, for example.
  • And reinforce why. Whatever precautions your organization takes, continue to communicate the driving reason behind your decisions: protecting and supporting each other and the health of your organization.


PRCA Americas Conference 2021 — Post-Pandemic Public Relations: From Crisis to Opportunity

When: Tuesday, June 1 to Wednesday, June 2; Keynote session is on June 2 at 1:05 p.m. BST

Where: Online event

Register for the virtual PRCA Americas Conference here.

The PRCA Americas Conference will virtually gather communications leaders, innovators and influencers across North and South America to discuss post-pandemic public relations. Speakers will analyze how organizations can build trust and prioritize environmental social governance as we endure COVID-19 and societal unrest. These issues further affirm the need for organizations to develop and foster meaningful, two-way relationships with stakeholders.

Michael Moroney, a Public Affairs leader in FleishmanHillard’s Washington, D.C. office, will deliver the opening keynote presentation on “Taking a Stand: Post-Pandemic Expectations for CEO Communications” during Day 2 of the conference. Moroney currently oversees the agency’s global public affairs and public sector-focused work with client Cisco, as well the firm’s beltway-focused work with client General Motors. His leadership on multiple accounts has culminated in numerous award-winning campaigns.

Register for the virtual conference here.


With Transformation Comes Great Progress

April 27, 2021
By Alison McNally

From Detroit to Miami, Dallas to Denver, and LA to New York — the COVID-19 pandemic changed how the world does business. Whether someone operated a manufacturing plant in the Midwest or worked the trading floor on the Stock Exchange, their day-to-day work life — how they made decisions and completed tasks — was altered, in some cases forever.

The power of technology — and our reliance on it — has never been more apparent. The pandemic is showing us that more business than expected can be done remotely. Companies are investing in new technology, migrating from older solutions and embracing digital transformation; in some cases, AI and algorithms are helping determine who needs to work in person and when.

With this in mind, TRUE Global Intelligence, FleishmanHillard’s in-house research practice, set out to better understand the impact these changes have had when it comes to business decision-making, especially in terms of Information Technology (IT). Where are businesses investing, who is making the decisions and where are they getting information in a largely virtual world free of in-person demos and large-scale tradeshows?

Simply put, COVID-19 is not only changing how people work but how they source and use technology to work better, faster and smarter. More than half of the 452-technology decision-makers surveyed in the U.S. said COVID-19 changed the efficiency of their decision-making processes for the better. Many reported the ability to quickly reassess budgets and highlighted internal and external cost savings. As predicted, most also agreed that remote working has significantly changed the decision-making process when it comes to purchases.

But the impact doesn’t stop at operations. Data and communications are infinitely more important today and will continue to drive how people work and make business decisions. Most of those surveyed (72%) said their company needs to be more data driven in its decision-making. When it comes to communications, decision makers agreed that industry experts, IT forums/blogs and tech publications are more influential than social posts. 

Finally, respondents commented on the importance of employer diversity and inclusiveness to create a sense of belonging for employees. Addressing diversity, equity and inclusion will be top of mind as businesses continue to face a litany of change and challenges. 

It’s important to remember that while the pandemic may have altered the DNA of business forever, there is a huge opportunity to emerge stronger than before — using the lessons of the past year to better understand, assess and ultimately make the choices that define organizations. There is a lot of potential in the path to recovery.


‘Safety First’: How Concerns Around Covid-19 Food Safety Are Shaping Expectations Toward the Food and Drink Industry

April 19, 2021

Food has always had to be safe to consume, but did we previously take this for granted pre-pandemic? I certainly never considered wiping the packaging with anti-bacterial spray or wondering whether food handling was done safely just over a year ago. […]

The post How Concerns Around Covid-19 Food Safety Are Shaping Expectations Toward the Food and Drink Industry appeared first on United Kingdom.


When Institutions Collide: How Conflicting Narratives Have Impacted Italy’s COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

April 15, 2021
By Haven Hightower

While Italy was the first and most severely hit country in the EU, it is currently among the European country with the highest vaccination rates in the EU. Around 16% of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19. While a successful vaccination campaign is underway, Italy is also known for being one of the most vaccine-skeptical countries in Europe. […]

The post When institutions collide: how conflicting narratives have impacted Italy’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts appeared first on European Union.


Why Are the French the Most Skeptical About COVID-19 Vaccines in the EU?

April 7, 2021
By Emma Cracknell

France became the birthplace of modern immunology when Louis Pasteur created a vaccine for rabies in the 1880s. This vaccine proved to be so effective that people bitten by rabid animals came from all over France and even from abroad to be vaccinated at his research facility in Paris, which would be transformed into a vaccination clinic and teaching center for this new field of science. […]

The post Why are the French the most skeptical about COVID-19 vaccines in the EU? appeared first on European Union.