Office Hours: New norms of job hunting, agency reopening plans, and VR offices
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In a matter of months, the pandemic has transformed the way we communicate, where we conduct business, the technology we use and how we juggle home and work life. Every Thursday, Ad Age looks at how these changes are impacting our professional lives.
Starting a new job in a pandemic means being your own IT person, and none of your co-workers actually knowing just how tall you are. Virtual interviews and onboarding practices that have become the norm during this unprecedented time could permanently change not only how ad professionals get a job, but also the avenues open to those in the industry. Here’s a look at how industry professionals are navigating these new challenges.
Agency giants outline return plans
Publicis Groupe Chairman-CEO Arthur Sadoun yesterday detailed the holding company’s plans for returning to the office in a video memo. In it, he assured employees that no one is expected to return until a vaccine is found and even then “remote work will be an integrated part of our daily culture,” Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse reports.
“What is certain is that Publicis will not be a Zoom company. Nor will Publicis be a 100% in-office company,” he said in the video. Once there is a vaccine, “and not before,” the office will be the “primary” place of work, Sadoun said.
WPP will take a similar hybrid approach. The holding company had seen about 20% of its staffers in the U.K. return to the office before new lockdown measures were issued and its been slow getting U.S. employees back, CEO Mark Read said during an interview on Ad Age Remotely this week. While Read has been “keen” to get people to return to the office, he doesn’t expect employees to be there all the time.
“We’re never going to go back to the way we were before COVID, and it looks like by the time we get through this we will have forgotten what life was like before COVID,” Read said. Moving forward, “there’s going to need to be a reason to come into work,” he said, regarding to the future of office space. Only 2% of WPP employees want to be back in the office five days a week, Read said, referencing an internal survey. The most popular choice was three days a week in the office, while a “fair number” didn’t want to come back to the office at all. Watch the full interview here.
Trump blocks diversity training
As the ad world addresses the systemic racism that has perpetuated in the industry, an executive order signed by President Donald Trump could stymie some of these efforts. The order forbids government contractors—which could include ad agencies with government contracts—on conducting “divisive” training, which includes critical race theory and unconscious bias. Those who disobey could face consequences.
The American Association of Advertising Agencies is joining several other trade associations to push back on the move. “As this Executive Order prohibits employee training on topics such as 'stereotyping' and 'scapegoating' based on race or sex—ambiguous terms that even courts of law have trouble parsing and applying—it complicates how agencies can evaluate their employee training programs for compliance,” 4A’s president and CEO Marla Kaplowitz told Ad Age’s Lindsey Rittenhouse.
Weber Shandwick appointed its first chief workforce innovation and operations officer, who is tasked with re-imagining the structural and cultural transformation necessary for the future of work. Brian Offutt, who previously worked at Combs Enterprises and Viacom, will oversee the shaping of the company’s workforce and workplace, ensuring agility, inclusivity and equity.
“The nature of work today is changing dramatically and rapidly—a result of the pandemic but also of seismic shifts in both the role employers are playing in advancing social issues as well as the omnipresent technology that powers our lives,” Gail Heimann, president and CEO, Weber Shandwick, said in a statement. “Given these shifts, the needs of our business today and in the future demand that we put workforce innovation squarely at the center of our strategy and leadership team going forward. This is essential as we prepare for the hybridization of work to deliver for our people and clients in a post-pandemic world. And as we take action to address structural inequities in our company and our communities, Brian, with his impressive experience and expertise, will bring an operational lens to ensuring we deliver for our people and our clients now, in the next decade and beyond.”
Droga5 promoted Tiffany Edwards as its first global head of diversity and inclusion, Rittenhouse reports. Edwards had previously served as director of engagement and inclusion. She will now lead and oversee Droga5's efforts to recruit, retain and advance professionals of diverse backgrounds globally, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Susie Nam.
Google employees want to return to the office at some point, but perhaps not every day, according to a survey conducted by the company. When asked post-COVID how often would they need to come to the office to do their work well, just 8% said they would need to come in every day.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company was looking at hybrid working models for the future, but doesn’t plan for the company to be 100% remote anytime soon, according to CNBC.
Over at JPMorgan Chase, employees will continue to work remotely until next year, according to Bloomberg. This applies to most U.S.-based employees in the consumer unit, but excludes branch workers and some in operations.
Virtual (reality) office
For those really itching to be back in the office, but not yet ready to brave the subway or get into an elevator, all you need is a virtual headset, according to the Wall Street Journal. With a VR headset and virtual meeting platform you can meet up and collaborate with colleagues as if you are in a physical office space.
Business on top and pajamas on the bottom. That seems to be the chic fashion of the pandemic. With many professionals working from home in some capacity in the near future, office clothing brands are under pressure, according to Modern Retail. Unsurprisingly, demand for formal wear and work wear have plummeted, with menswear arrivals online dropping 5% since July and womenswear down 10%.
But apparently, some people, like this Vogue editor, wear $756 ballet flats and a $675 bracelet for their Zoom meetings.
That does it for this week's Office Hours. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.
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