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Lem-uhn claims to be the first PR agency to launch a Work from Anywhere policy. It is part of its overall approach to work, which is focused on positivity and wellbeing.
It’s a brave person who launches a business in the middle of a pandemic, but Riannon Palmer could see an opportunity for a values-led PR agency with a focus on positivity and wellbeing.
It was 2021 and she was tired of the long hours culture in PR. The pandemic had added to the crazy hours. Many people were on furlough. The stress was immense on those remaining. She had been looking for other jobs, but no other agencies seemed to share her ethos about wellbeing. She cites statistics showing 91% of PR professionals saying they have mental health issues. “I decided I would have to create the kind of agency where I would want to work,” she says. “We want people to stay in PR long term and be happier because we believe happier employees do better work in a shorter time frame.”
When she launched Lem-uhn in May 2021 she found that the clients she was approaching liked its ethos. So much so that within a month she had hired her first member of staff. There are four on the team now in different parts of the UK.
Riannon says it is really important that they are working with clients who share their outlook. There have been some challenges. For instance, the first six months was taken up with potential legal action over their first name. The new name, Lem-uhn, sums up their approach, however, and has drawn very positive comments. Many of Lem-uhn’s clients are working parents, particularly working mums, who want to work with people with a like-minded ethos.
When they started, there was an emphasis on working your set hours, which Riannon says is unheard of in the industry. As they grew there was a need to put some policies in place. They launched a menstrual policy which entitles employees to paid leave for menstruation, menopause and miscarriage in addition to the firm’s existing sick leave entitlements. Lem-uhn employees accrue an additional 10 days of paid personal leave per year for menstruation, menopause discomfort or in the event of a miscarriage. This was prompted by one of their employees who suffered from severe menstrual pain. Riannon says she doesn’t want anyone to feel they can’t take time off if they need to.
Last year Lem-uhn introduced a Wellness Days policy which includes two days off a year with one day’s notice for mental health issues. And this month they have launched a Work From Anywhere policy. Riannon says she has been wanting to introduce it for ages, but it was hard to get advice on the tax and insurance implications.
The new policy entitles employees to work for up to 45 days from any country with a double taxation policy with the UK. Riannon says it benefits everyone. It makes employees happier and it means they are more creative, an important quality for someone working in PR. “Being able to travel means you have to be good at time management, organisation and people skills. It opens you up to new experiences,” says Riannon. “Creativity is a key skill in public relations. A happier mind, adventure and experiencing cultures provide the perfect opportunity to feed our employee’s creativity.”
Riannon says her insurance bill is slightly more expensive as a result, but she thinks the benefits in terms of happier staff and greater creativity are worth it. Employees need to have been in the company for six months – the probation period – before they qualify. All the policies will be subject to review in a year or so, but Riannon is keen for people to take them up.
She admits she had been slightly worried about what clients might think about the work from anywhere policy, but it turned out they tended to be more curious. Moreover, many fully understand the need for flexible working, not just in terms of being able to access a broader diversity of talent, but also in terms of having happier workers. The same applied when the agency moved to fully remote working in May. Riannon recalls one founder who had worked in the City and then found, after having children, that a City career did not suit family life.
She adds that she is “really disappointed” to see the number of companies that are forcing people to work more days in the office. “Those companies and the voices saying this is not the time for flexible working don’t think about the people who get left behind,” says Riannon. “We want a more diverse workforce. Especially in PR it is important to be able to benefit from different perspectives, including from different parts of the UK. PR tends to be very London-focused. That will make us more relevant to more clients.”