Q: Work-life balance - oh yeah? As progressive as it may make you seem in the eyes of employees and clients, deep down there is a lot of resentment from "full-time" staff and also clients who actually only care about having their team in the room when they want them. On the one hand, it's a very competitive business, and on the other, it's all about the people. So, just how can we make "flexibility" work in the current climate?

A: It's nothing to do with the current climate. Even during the sunniest times (which are seen to be sunny, of course, only in retrospect), there's going to be work-life conflict. However, its most painful consequences may easily be avoided by adopting one of two strategies.

1. Make yourself so unpleasant at home that the longer you spend away from it the more popular you become. This strategy comes naturally to some people but has to be consciously worked at by others.

2. Adopt the drying-up tactic. If you drop the bone china every time you volunteer to dry up, you will soon be invited to take the evening paper and get the hell out of the kitchen. By demonstrating reliable incompetence at work, you will never be missed by clients or colleagues - and may therefore absent yourself from weekend work and late meetings while provoking no resentment.

I should perhaps point out that neither of these strategies is without disadvantage. In the case of option 1, you may find yourself without a home to go to. In the case of option 2, you may find yourself without a job to go to. You will however, at least in the short term, have been able to eliminate guilt.

The trouble with people in advertising is that, inexplicably, most of them are both valued at work and appreciated at home.

Please make a note of those of your colleagues who boast of their stress-free, work-life balance and let me know if they are a) lying, b) heading for professional oblivion, or c) divorced.

I'm sorry to have to tell you that "flexibility" can be universally acceptable only in very, very boring jobs occupied by very, very boring people whose absence from both home and work, if ever actually remarked, will be warmly welcomed.

Q: My client is hell bent on sponsoring the tour of a musician he personally adores but I feel is so wrong for his business. The media agency does not care too much as it is in for a big finder's fee. I'm banging my head against a brick wall and am in danger of a major fall-out with my client. Please help.

A: I admire your principles but question your judgment. You only "feel" that this musician is wrong for his business. By expressing your doubts, you've already behaved honourably. Or does your client (unlike me) suspect that your opposition is based on your fear that the sponsorship cost will be found from your own budget? Let him go ahead. Be helpful. And if it bombs, stifle all human instincts.

Q: Remember all that nonsense years ago about London agencies relocating out of central London to save money? With technology as it is today there is an even more compelling case to move out. Given that, why do agencies still feel they need to be in the centre of London?

A: If a client gets off a train at Euston, he will not then be pleased to take a taxi to Roehampton. If a creative team comes in from Osterley Park to brief a production house in Soho, do not expect them back in Osterley Park before late Thursday afternoon.

The Harvester in Milton Keynes does a two-course lunch for £4.99 but The Wolseley is closer to the Ritz.

You seem to believe that the only thing required of ad agencies is the production of advertisements, which can be transmitted electronically to the client for approval and then forwarded electronically to the media for distribution. I wonder where you work?

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. He welcomes questions via campaign@ or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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