Office Hours: From cookbooks to childcare, how agencies are helping employees in the pandemic
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The way we work is rapidly evolving. In a matter of months, the pandemic has forever changed how we communicate, where we conduct business, the technology we use and how we juggle home and work life. There’s also been a much-needed spotlight thrown on the makeup of the workforce and the efforts being done to make the ad world a more-inclusive place. Every Thursday, Ad Age will tackle a different issue regarding the way these changes are impacting our professional lives.
From cookbooks ...
COVID-19 has certainly taken a toll on employees, many of whom are juggling childcare and other family responsibilities alongside their jobs—not to mention the mental strain of working away from colleagues and having little in-person interaction. Throughout the course of the pandemic we’ve seen the many ways agencies have stepped up to help employees, from virtual mediation to Summer Friday activities.
Here's a particularly inspiring example. To keep its employees connected, McCann Worldgroup created a cookbook with recipes submitted by employees across the globe, from Asia, Latin America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and North America. What they received was not only family recipes for things like Jamaican rice and peas and ceviche, but also personal stories about the heritage of the recipes and employees’ families.
The cookbook is a nod to how every day we are inviting colleagues into our homes via things like Microsoft Teams, which in many cases feature the kitchen or dining room table, says Suzanne Powers, global chief strategy office, McCann.
... to childcare
Female-led agency Zambezi is helping its employees balance work with remote teaching and childcare, as many kids across the country will remain home from school or attend on a hybrid model. The Culver City, Calif.-based agency is giving parents 80 hours of emergency sick leave in 2020 to care for kids at 100 percent pay, plus an additional 10 weeks at partial pay. In addition, Zambezi is keeping Friday afternoons meeting-free to allow employees to catch up on emails and projects and encourage work-free weekends to spend with family. It is also encouraging employees to block off family time on calendars to help keep kids’ routines, and to work with managers to break up their day around family obligations.
Meanwhile, digital marketing agency PMG is offering childcare and education reimbursement of up to $800 per month to help working parents with additional childcare expenses and technology to support virtual learning for the next three months. The company has also invested in an employer-subsidized plan with Care.com to offer access to caregivers.
The pandemic has certainly led many companies to reconsider how to use their office spaces or if they should just continue working remotely indefinitely.
Some, like Mother New York, have continued to embrace in-person. The independent creative agency just signed a 61,000 square-foot, 15-year leader at the Roulston House in Gowanus, Brooklyn, which will serve as its new headquarters, Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse reports. This will give the agency 25,000 additional square feet of space.
Mother didn’t want to make a hasty decision about its workspace in the current conditions. Peter Ravailhe, CEO and Partner of Mother U.S., said when the pandemic hit, the agency “first took a step back and made sure we were being fiscally responsible. So many companies have made decisions about the next 15 years of their physical workplace based on the extremeness of current conditions and mindsets. The last six months have given us real insight towards re-imagining the creative environment of the future that blends work-from-home with the energy and inspiration of having a creative destination for our people.”
At the other end of the spectrum, Pinterest terminated its 490,000 square-foot lease at San Francisco’s unbuilt 88 Bluxome project as it shifts toward remote work, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
And Ford employees are cleaning out their desks as the automaker looks to reconfigure its office space while its workers work remotely through the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company will take advantage of its empty building to re-imagine the best use-case for the office. General Motors also expects most of its employees to continue to work remotely through the end of the year.
Real estate boom
As companies re-evaluate their office spaces, families are also rethinking their living situations to accommodate remote working and schooling. This is leading to a boom for real estate agents, which have escalated their marketing in an effort to grab a piece of the pie, Ad Age's Adrianne Pasquarelli reports. In recent months, marketers including Zillow, Redfin and Apartments.com have aired new ads, according to Ace Metrix, which analyzes advertising data. Ace Metrix found an 11 percent rise in new ads in the real estate category between March and August of this year compared to the same period last year. Apartments.com nearly doubled its ad count, while Redfin aired four ads during the period, versus only one commercial in 2019, the firm found.
Pinterest named a new global head of inclusion and diversity and is placing the role under its executive management team for the first time. Tyi McCray, who previously led government affairs at Airbnb, was tapped for the role, which incorporates leading strategy and programming, as well as building an inclusive and diverse culture within the company. Pinterest hired its first head of diversity in 2016 but, for the first time, the global head of inclusion and diversity will report directly to Ben Silbermann, Pinterest co-founder and CEO. Hiring more diverse individuals at the executive level was one item Pinterest said it would focus on in June when it shared multiple commitments to social injustice.
The hits keep coming
Droga5 confirmed yesterday it cut 7 percent of its U.S. staff, writes Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse. The cuts were concentrated in the Accenture Interactive-owned agency's New York headquarters and affected about 40 people across all levels and departments. “All of those affected will be provided severance benefits,” said a Droga5 spokesperson. “We are grateful for all of their contributions to the agency.”
And there were more layoffs this week in the travel sector. MGM Resorts International sent a letter to 18,000 employees who had been furloughed during the pandemic making their job cuts permanent, CNBC reported. MGM's casinos in Las Vegas have been impacted by declines in tourism and travel restrictions.
United Airlines, meanwhile, will eliminate more than 16,000 jobs next month amid the steep decline in air travel, according to Bloomberg.
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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