Zero overtime: junior employees & work-life balance in PR

I was going to write my analysis of the more traditional findings of the just-released State of PR survey, but one of the fringe results keeps pinging around my brain:

Coordinator-level employees reported zero days working after hours, the most often of any group.

In the survey, conducted annually by Muck Rack, participants were asked how many times they worked after hours in the last week. About half said 1-2 times, 20% said 3-4 times, and 22% said zero times. Interestingly, the majority of those who didn't work after hours were junior employees.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I'm surprised these junior employees aren't seizing their opportunity to gain experience by going the extra mile.

Doing so now makes sense for them because:

  • They likely have fewer obligations outside work. Later, when kids come or aging parents wane, it will be harder to give work extra energy.
  • This is the time they can advance the fastest. Mastering key skills independently can lead to promotions and increased responsibility.

UPDATE: After I posted this, a few helpful followers pointed out that some states restrict overtime even for salaried employees if their compensation is below a certain threshold. That means that bosses are required to send home junior employees once they hit 40 hours (or pay them time-and-a-half). I agree that likely explains this finding of the survey. For everyone else, which is most of us, my reflections and takeaways still apply:

As a summer intern at Marriott, my habit of being the last to leave the office allowed me to save one of my supervisors when a surprise arose on Friday afternoon after she left early. She rewarded me with the chance to draft the press release announcing their first hotel in Russia. That release anchored my portfolio when job-seeking the next year.

On the other hand, I admire younger workers today that have a healthy understanding of work-life balance. They don't grind without purpose, a perspective I wish I had earlier.

After I got married early in my career, my new wife decided to go to the gym every evening after she got off work at 5 p.m. My reaction was, “Great, now I can work til 6:30 guilt-free!” Those extra hours did lead directly to some great results and career advancement. But missing out on exercise led to chronic overuse injuries that cost me a lot of money and time later.

My advice to younger employees (or that you can pass along if you manage them): Seek opportunities to occasionally work late when it will lift your supervisor and give you valuable experience. But preserve your boundary against working just for the sake of it.

The State of PR survey has much more to offer, from social media platform trends to pitching preferences. Download the full report here.

This article was originally published on May 17, 2023

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