Year 3 of the pandemic.
The „new work“ is part of today’s business life. We can sit back home at our kitchen table or in the living room…or for some who have already set up their own office back home, a dream comes finally true. Skip the commuting, more time for yourself more time for the loved ones.
Happy „Alice in Wonderland“. For some businesses, this may indeed be the way they should and will go. For as someone working in the creative industry, I see it a little bit differently. Upfront to say: I m no home office type of guy. I can work from home. As a gamer, I can assure you that my home office setup equals my office setup (and at some points, it beats it). But still, I take my daily 30 minutes trip to the agency…and the 30 min back home. I could stay at home. I m not forced to be in the agency. I do it because this is the place where I (ME, MYSELF, AND I) feel best. When I enter the agency…I grab my first cup of (pretty good) coffee…walk to my office, put my bag on the couch next to the door, elevate my desk so that I can stay the first 30 min of the day, power up my MacBook, and read the first mails while sipping on my coffee. This is how I like my morning to start. Since I´m one of the „early birds“ in the agency, I´m most like the one that greets his colleagues that are in the office that day. I like it that way. Is that the „new work“? I guess not. It´s more like it was before. That piece of „normality“ I took for granted 3 years before.
I´m not complaining. Within a blink of an eye, the agency got into the „remote state“ and this is how it´s mostly today.
In my point of view „the new work“ should be an improvement of the current way of working plus getting rid of stiff structures. We will NEVER go back to how it was before. This is done. Get over it. But what would look a „new work“ would look like in the advertising business? Homeoffice forever? I would say „no“. This can not be the solution. Although on first view it might look tempting: You need less office space, you can hire people from all over the world.
No bonding to your workplace makes it much easier to get the best people for the job. But is „the best person for the job“ as well the „best person for the agency“? I don´t know. Agencies are like any other company a summary of characteristics that make the company.
3 things qualify a job in my point of view as a good job:
- The work I´m doing
- The money I get
- The environment I´m working in
I take a lot of motivation from the work I´m doing. If my job would suck, no money in the world could compensate for it, and even if I have great colleagues around me, could just temporarily compensate for this gap when I have to get up every day doing a job that I do not like. Money is my second reason that makes a job enriching. If I get paid a fair amount of money, I feel appreciated and the work I´m doing. Ok, I have to say that even though I like to pay my bills and have some money left over for the pleasant things in life, money is not as important as the last point I mentioned: The environment. Good people inspire me. I love conversations, discussions, and good ideas that come out of these. In the past 2 years, I´ve concluded that online is not equal to a face-2-face working way. Homeoffice is great in a streamlined working environment, but when it comes to a creative kind of job the get-together is way more productive than sitting in front of a screen talking to multiple people. But it needs to be respected that esp. the younger generations are more likely in favor of this kind of way of working. They love it because it takes away some „pressure“ of being present, and visible and it benefits their need for a kind work-life balance because it´s much easier to just shut down a computer and then focus on their private life.
Maybe it´s the result of changing situation. As it is normal that things change, the changes within the advertising industry are much more drastic because of the way marketing works these days. While in the pre-Big Data world a good campaign is strongly reliant on a creative idea and a perfect execution…today, Big Data takes more and more of this part. A good data analyst and pushing the right triggers can equal a middle-class creative idea. The longer this situation goes, the more the people will get used to the situation, and the more likely it is that this „
Disconnected to your working-place, disconnected employers and employees?
Some years ago you had the problem to commute. Some people take more daily commuting than others depending on the salary, the position, or the job itself. But the vast majority choose a working place that was at least in a range of 1 – 1.5 hours for one way max. Vis versa did a company not hire a person that lived on the other side of the country without offering (or making it at least mandatory) to move closer to the office. These days are gone since the COVID-19 stroke. While it was a benefit these days to offer „flexible“ working models that allowed the employee to spend a certain amount of time at a workplace that was not the office, it´s mandatory today. And I´m still confused to get job offers where the home office is praised as a benefit. Where were those HR people the last two years? No, offering a home office is not a benefit anymore but a mandatory offering like that you get paid for the position. Within all the flexibility comes the danger of disconnection. An Art-Director that lives in Berlin works for an agency in Paris? An Account-Manager from Frankfurt that works for an agency in Hamburg. Possible these days. And is already a functioning working model. But the question is: What builds the bond between an employer and its employees? I can assure you, it´s not a weekly Teams-Meeting as well as it´s not some nice Welcome Package delivered to your doorstep. A healthy employer-employee relationship is a kind of relationship you have with your partner. A good relationship is strongly based on the „time spent together“. I´ve seen quite a few long-distance relationships. Some worked over years and that s fine. But most of them broke. Why, because you didn´t get to know each other the way you usually do when you are living together. The same it´s with the job. If you don´t spend time at the office…if you don´t develop a sense of „I´m proud of working for my company.“ and vis versa an employer knows what type of person you are and what needs you have to bring the best benefit to the company, how can this working-relationship works? We need social interaction. It´s a human nature thing…and by all means: a Zoom or Teams call can not replace that.
Re-think „The office“
I spend quite some time on the question „What would I do if I were in charge of the project „Back to the office“?“
Step 1 Evaluation
Most companies did some research within their workforce to evaluate the situation. I´m pretty sure most companies already did something like this. But to get good results to work with need to evaluate not only the questions like:
„How many times are you willing to come back to the office?“ but more questions that go in the direction of like „what could you do better in the office than back home if you had the option?“ Sure, life is not a pony ranch nor is a company some sort of Gini that fulfills any wish you have, but there is a high chance that some very useful results will come out of such a survey.
Step 2 Set up – Phase
For sure, such an evaluation will have some outcomes. It´s highly recommended to have some (not all) points taken into consideration (depending on the budget) what was the result of the evaluation phase. You have to carefully consider what changes might have a positive effect on office life and which ones are just optic. When you considered the changes for the office you are going to execute put them into a timeframe. Doing all changes at once is often not manageable because it s a budget thing and mostly those changes will interrupt the daily business. So consider what are the most time-consuming ones and find a time where those changes would affect the daily business the least. It could be an a idea to write down all changes and put a value for the office life and a budget estimation next to it to find out what changes can be „best for the buck“.
Step 3 Execution – Phase
After checking with the finance department (because you will need some budget for this) you should involve as many people as possible in this project.
BE TRANSPARENT! Involve your employees in the reworking project. Have a scheduled plan.
The office is the center of all. It s the stronghold that provides itself and the surrounding with all things necessary to do your job. It provides „shelter“, guidance, and support and is the visible business card of the company for new clients. If your office is a shady place that looks deserted and has no „spirit“ don´t be foolish to think it won´t be recognized. Think of your home. You don´t want to come home to an apartment/house that has old furniture and simply looks „uncool“. We spend so much time for keep our home nice and a place that you enjoy being. If we estimate that ppl have 8 hours of sleep and a free time of 8 hours that leaves 8 hours of work. So you spend the same amount of time working (usually it s a little bit more than that) then you enjoy your free time. So shouldn´t this place as well a place that you like? Maybe that s one reason why people these days prefer to stay at home in their comfort zone…even if this means sacrificing the comfort of some more comfortable office equipment.
New room, new opportunities
A new room concept needs to be set up. The pre-setups simply don´t work anymore. The Key has to be: Collective-Individualism. 20-year-old desks, chairs, or similar have to move for a more creative office space.
There is a reason why Google or Meta´s workspaces are so far away from a „normal“ office at such companies the value of an attractive workspace was evaluated a year ago. Center the person and not the work could be a sort of „briefing“ for developing such a room concept. This is costly because in a lot of cases companies/agencies have to say „goodbye“ to their 08/15, one fits all tables and chairs pieces of furniture. From a budget perspective, it´s completely understandable that you buy furniture in large quantities to save some money and to keep a consistent look within the company/agency. But this is pre-Covid-thinking. Say goodbye to this idea that all employees will ever be back at the same time again sitting like before in the office singing „kumbaya my lord!“. So use the space more efficiently for those who will return. Create single and co-working spaces for those willing to come back frequently: Allow them to reflect on their individualism within their office or at least at their desk. Support good and health-supporting furniture: Height-adjustable tables are not that expensive anymore. Invest in good chairs, because office workers back will pay you back with less sickness time.
And plants, WE NEED MORE PLANTS. Give or encourage people to get their plants into the company/agency. For good reason, it should be something „forgiving“. Give every employee a plant to care about. It´s like these Tamagoshis back in the days. But taking care of a plant relieves some stress, watching it grow is a reward and green is always a refreshing color within this desktop environment and it makes you connect with your office space.
Embrace the new, re-connect to the old
After more than two years with home office due to Covid people got used to working from home. So going back to the office must have a significant benefit that their home office doesn´t have. Just telling people that they have to come back won´t be that beneficial. There has to be a reason and a benefit. A new room concept, a good IT environment, or a place where creativity can flow.
Conclusion: The new work can create a chance to boost your agency
Covid turned the (working-)world upside down, and what was 2.5 years ago a „normal“ thing is gone once and for all and it won´t come back. That´s a fact. But as always, there is a chance to benefit from the „new“.