Natalie's Nine Nifty Tips about PBS's Work Culture

by Natalie Benson, PBS 

An opportunity arose to work with Kevin Dando on social media at PBS HQ and I pounced! After three years at Colorado Public Television, I said goodbye to my stellar colleagues and moved from Denver, CO to Arlington, VA!

It has been two months now. While my skin and hair are still acclimating to the climate, I have been focusing on the operational differences of corporate life vs. station life.

During this transition, I have created a Top 9 list (in no particular order) of noteworthy and FUN operations, procedures, policies, what have yous that I have either witnessed or have yet to witness and that I believe stations might benefit from by adopting.

1. While other floors here try to claim they have “free corners,” there is nothing like the 4th floor “Free Table.” It literally means - what is on the table is free! Designated spaces like this are great opportunities for colleagues to recycle different things from home, but also different things at the office. And who doesn’t love getting free presents every now and then?! Just be careful about accidentally leaving something behind because the only rule about the free table is that there are no rules about the free table!

2. The annual meeting: it’s every year, and it’s AWESOME! But sadly, we all know not everyone can go. So do you know what happens at HQ for those left behind? They throw a “Non-Annual Meeting Party!” Just because you won’t be in Miami this year doesn’t mean everyone in PBS World can’t have a little fun!

3. PBScoop is our weekly newsletter that comes out every Friday. It’s a great way to keep everyone on the same page about big events and announcements. If you have something you want to share, you add it to that week’s list, but there is always some flare and fun to it! Maybe you already do something like this or maybe you have a meeting that accomplishes the same goal. That’s fantastic, whatever floats your boat. However, my argument for a newsletter over a meeting is that with a newsletter you’re knocking a meeting off your calendar and also letting people digest the information at their own leisure.

Shannon Vesik, PBS Kids & Zumba Instructor 
4. Zumba, Zumba, Zumba! One employee here moonlights as a Zumba instructor and at some point she decided to spread the love with her colleagues at PBS! Monday and Thursday nights you can join her classes INSIDE the building! Three awesome things about this: the price of a class is less than anywhere else, you don’t have to leave the building, and it’s great to encourage a healthier work environment. I understand that stations might not be fortunate enough to have their own Shannon, but it’s the idea here, people! No one can say they don’t have a studio, or at least a TV somewhere in their station, right?! So grab a fitness DVD, organize a time, and get active -- together! 

5. PBS has a softball team. How cool is that?! Every city has different leagues you can join, so maybe you prefer flag football or kickball, but this is something worth checking out. Again with the exercise, you say... I know, but it’s also a great team building experience. And hey, you could justify it as good press for the station by increasing your visibility in the community (assuming everyone plays nice with the other kids).

6. Viewing party, anyone? I thought this was brilliant! Some stations organize viewing parties for their communities, but what if you did one with colleagues to learn about upcoming programs? Occasionally we get screenings in advance, and when we do, you should take advantage of that. I’m going out on a limb here, but doesn’t everyone love a movie night?

7. Collaboration Rooms (a.k.a. Collab Rooms) are free spaces where people can meet without having to reserve
a meeting room. In fact, these rooms aren’t allowed to be reserved. So not only does it take the edge off of 
every discussion being an official meeting, it allows for more spontaneous brainstorming.

 8. Even with collab rooms, there are meetings, lots of meetings. Some say they are a necessary evil, but let me tell you about one of my favorite ones here. It’s every morning, yes every morning(!), and yet I look forward to it. There are no chairs, it's scheduled for 15 minutes to review what happened online and in social media the day before, and what's coming up that day. You’re in, you’re out, and we still have time to talk about the weather! I do believe that because we stay standing we stay more focused. Everyone knows the agenda and we just get right to it. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t go over 15 minutes some mornings, but try a standing-only meeting and see if it doesn’t make a difference.

9. Right after I encourage you to take a meeting off your list, just that quick I’m throwing one back on! It’s not a formal meeting, so does that count? Social media is great, even if you’re a skeptic, take my word for it. But who can keep up with all the changes and new apps coming out every week? It’s ridiculously hard. So every week we have an informal social media meeting. It’s cross departmental and the attendee list includes anyone who works on, touches, or is interested in social media. Of course, we cover work-related topics, but then we also discuss the latest and greatest out in the social media world. This meeting is extremely helpful for people who want to learn more in general, but also beneficial for others to learn about new platforms they might want to look in to.

Now I know you’re thinking... 'okay, so she just listed things that require me to spend more time with coworkers' OR 'she just listed things that won’t work at our station.' Pick your poison, try a couple out, and you might find that it isn’t poison at all. If your station does anything that you think is particularly awesome that isn’t listed above, please share! Or if you do test out some of these suggestions, let us know how it goes.