Why Media Profile is paying its employees to go away

After nearly two years spent mostly working from home, Toronto PR agency Media Profile is encouraging its employees to work from anywhere but home for one month this year—and will give them $3,000 to do so.

The new Work Away Benefit is being offered to everyone who’s worked at the agency for at least six months, and staff can use the money to set up shop anywhere in the world—as long as they’re able to work on EST time while they’re away.

“I could see the fatigue, and that people were kind of fed up with being stuck in the house,” said Media Profile president Alison King about the decision to create the program. There was some excitement about the prospect of going back to the office, but those hopes were dashed as Covid numbers started to rise again. “I just wanted to give people a different view, instead of looking out the same window or at the same walls while they’re working.”

Employee health and wellness have always been priorities for King, part of the agency’s desire to be considered a great place to work with strong retention numbers.

But in the last year, King, like a lot of employers, became concerned that the seemingly interminable pandemic was having a real and tangible impact on her staff. “I was hearing anecdotally and directly that people were working really hard [and] there was often no break between work and home because people were [living] in small apartments,” she said. “And that started to get to them, affecting their mental health and I also think it then starts to affect their work and their creativity.”

That growing sense of restlessness and fatigue is backed up by new data from travel booking site Kayak (a Media Profile client), which suggests that “workations” could be on the rise this year, with people looking to break the unrelenting routine experienced by so many without respite since March 2020.

According to the Kayak research, 25% of Canadians feel burned out at work; 28% say a change of scenery would help combat burnout; and 27% want to take a “workation” this year.

Like a lot of employers, Media Profile had some staff leave during the pandemic. If they chose to leave the industry or do something else, that was alright with King, but she didn’t want them leaving for other agencies“We’ve always been known as a great place to work that has a really great culture,” she said. “And I was finding that it was more challenging to differentiate ourselves from other places when we’re not in the office together.”

With more than 40 staff, most of whom are or will be eligible to take advantage of the offer, it could cost the agency upwards of $120,000 this year. “We’ve absolutely budgeted for it and ready for it,” said King. Aside from the four work weeks away, staff can also tag on two extra weeks of vacation time to extend the trip.

In a blog post on the agency website, account director Stephanie Kesler said she’s thinking about Italy or Croatia. “Now, I realize these selections mean I’ll have to work 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. CET, but I’m all for it,” she wrote. “A little morning/afternoon adventure followed by work and sleep? Sign me up!”

“I’m hoping that everybody takes advantage of it,” said King, who’s said she’s already pondering her workation plans: Right now, Costa Rica or a place on the East Coast are at the top of her list.

David Brown