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PR at Work: What Does Workplace Design Mean to New Graduates in PR?

Courtney Lukitsch, creative work environment, design thinking, Gotham PR, internal comms, Marketing, Pr, PR at work, PR employment, PR graduates, PR leaders, Public relations, work cultures, workplace design, workplace PRBy Courtney Lukitsch, Founder and Principal, Gotham PR

With a workforce attuned to design in general and new work environments in particular, new graduates seeking or newly granted employment in public relations, may find a variety of spaces and styles along their career path. As these highly proactive and digitally attuned individuals enter many workplaces at top-tier firms, they will likely find amenities and abilities aligned. In others, they may see that technology, design and optimized workspace while given lip service, are far from state of the art.

While prone to a duality of idealism, intentionality and ever-connectedness, it is important for senior and Millennial PR leaders to dually impart core values and practices—while also incentivizing this emerging professional group through design thinking, creative team and individual problem-solving, as well as environments that are conducive to a generation that has a zero tolerance attitude toward paper, poor lighting and cluttered office space littered with ancient technology or lack of Wi-Fi options.

In fact, by 2020, Millennials will form 50% of the global workforce, according to a study done by PWC. And the 53.5 million already working are showing Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers a thing or two about the dynamic work environment. Graduates entering the workplace also bring strong ambition, social consciousness, and acceptance to an office. They are able to take on tasks with enthusiasm while being concerned for the greater good, and thinking of how their actions may affect other employees and clients.

What we are witnessing within our own PR roster, in tandem with multidisciplinary skillsets at our agency, is a sharp focus on future-forward abilities that include planning, writing, problem-solving, budgeting, production and of course networked solutions and digital platforms to communicate high volumes of fast breaking news, often of a visual nature. Gotham PR published this PR News piece that provides insight to the importance of visuals in the communication world.

Demonstrated throughout the workplace culture is a new emphasis on transferable skills at a very sophisticated level, with the potential of truly thriving if not driving the agency world. Most employees will find that they glean skills that they can carry over into many different fields, as detailed in this piece by Architect Magazine.

In the recently published creative analysis on workplace design Cubed, Nikil Saval explores multi-generational office settings and their pop culture origins from Wall Street to Silicon Valley, monolithic headquarters and small start-ups alike. Under a focused lens to better understand how, why and where we work, he investigates how office environments specifically designed to create teamwork and innovation, often optimize output. With an eye to the evils of cubicles to massive open plan, shared office amenity spaces, we learn how to potentially design better.

As in any work environment, the popular business adage ‘culture eats strategy for lunch’ (a quote by Peter Drucker, expanded upon here in Fast Company) applies. If the workplace culture is not in alignment with innovative thinking, technology and environment, chances are that alternative venues will be created. We see this in the current popularity of collective start-up office venues that include the popular WeWork/WeLive and Neuehouse in New York, The Collective in London—and global offices like The Edge for Deloitte in Amsterdam designed by PLP / Architecture, a client of our agency. Entire cultures are built on owning this workplace identity in particular, although not exclusively, at new media companies that include Google, Facebook and Tumblr. We’ve been following this issue closely at our agency, writing about the future of the PR workplace on the Bulldog Reporter.

Creative work environments are not just dependent on their appearance. To be sure, cubicles seem to be associated with conformity and solidarity, while open plan offices scream freedom. Establishing creativity in the workplace has more to do with fostering a supportive environment for all employees, according to this article by Entrepreneur. That means working without boundaries, getting people emotionally invested in their company, and letting workers voice their ideas sans ridicule, only constructive criticism.

If a company can effectively foster an accepting, supportive work environment amongst the management and employees first, you can follow suit with a trendy office design to continue to get creative juices flowing. Some of the first examples of innovative, out-of-the-box office spaces hailed from Silicon Valley.

Important attributes of some of the most successful businesses originating in the bay area of California are they the office spaces 1) allowed for an employee, at any time, to take a break by going for a walk, taking a nap in a nap pod, etc. and 2) when work was going on, it was typically in close quarters with other employees.

Whether you were actually completing group work or not, work cultures of companies in the Silicon Valley seem to believe that bouncing ideas off of other employees lead to the best answers to questions or problems at hand. Instead of having to handle something entirely on your own, being near other people allowed you to seek opinions and advice and better your work. More information about innovative office spaces in Silicon Valley can be found in this piece by The Atlantic.

Whether it’s aiming to accommodate a new generation or to challenge current employees with a new innovation way of thinking, the workplace is always in a state of change. What is important to remember is that every workplace is unique, and will not be an exact replica of another, especially in the PR realm.

Appealing to what employees want, as well as what clients want, in an innovative world, is easier said than done. You want your office space to be impactful and influence creative thinking while still fostering a productive environment. A 21st Century public relations office will look a lot different than that of a 21st Century accounting firm. Different types of businesses need different innovation levels to enhance creativity and productivity. Workspaces in general have made leaps and bounds from their origins of stiff, unfriendly cubicles of years past.

Courtney Lukitsch is founder and principal of Gotham PR in New York and London, with clients in 25 cities globally. This contribution represents Gotham Public Relations’ ongoing published series of articles focused on Client and Agency-side challenges and evolving solutions inside the global workplace.

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