Office Hours: Havas New York gets back to the office, and Polar experiments with a four-day week
Welcome to Ad Age’s Office Hours newsletter. If you're reading this online or in a forwarded email, here's the link to sign up for the newsletter.
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 tackles a different issue regarding the way these changes are impacting our professional lives.
Back to the office
Havas New York employees have started returning to the office. CEO Laura Maness appeared on Ad Age Remotely this week from her office in Tribeca, New York City, to discuss the future of office space and juggling virtual schooling for her 6-year-old son.
“We opened the doors for those that were desperately seeking a psychologically safe space to get back to,” she says, adding that currently returning to the office is voluntary.
The pandemic has made Havas re-think the purpose of the office. “When it is safe to do so—and it is—we will use the office intentionally to bring teams together to collaborate and socialize, but the key word is intentional. It will be all of the people some of the time, not necessarily all of the people all of the time. The world has moved on,” Maness says.
“Nothing replaces the opportunity and enabling the conditions for some planned spontaneity, some serendipitous interactions.”
Watch the full interview here.
Over in Charlotte, N.C., Wray Ward is moving into a new 38,000-square-foot office later this month. While the agency had been in the process of planning its new digs before the pandemic hit, Jennifer Appleby, chief creative officer and president at Wray Ward, says many of the decisions they had made previously align with their needs now. These include more individual work space, nooks that allow for social distancing, and for employees to be comfortable and mask-free. There’s also an outdoor roof deck and patio, along with venting skylights that allow for fresh air circulation.
The decision to move forward with its office expansion comes as other agencies scale down their physical presence. But Appleby says at Wray Ward they are “strong believers in the energy of being together in person.”
“Young people are dying to get back into the office in a safe way,” she says.
Some Wray Ward employees will begin going into the office on Sept. 28, but the agency isn’t mandating everyone return right away. There will still be some, Appleby says, that need to remain home to help children with remote schooling among other things. She estimates about 50 percent to 60 percent of employees will return to the office on a staggered schedule, and the company will adapt a hybrid model.
To accommodate those who will be home, Wray Ward has implemented Zoom-ready rooms so they can video conference in with the team that is in the office.
Not so fast
While some companies may be eager (and think their employees are too) to return to the office, according to a report in Bloomberg employees aren't necessarily embracing going back to the office just yet. According to a survey from Wells Fargo/Gallup released this week, 42 percent of 1,094 worker surveyed in August, had a positive view of working remotely, compared to just 14 percent who viewed it negatively.
Polar, a digital advertising tech company, began experimenting with a four-day work week this week. CEO Kunal Gupta calls it the “someday experiment,” based off the mental lists many people create of things they will do someday. Early on during the pandemic, Gupta told his team at Polar to take off every other Friday as “wellness days.” That concept has expanded, with Polar employees now able to take off every Friday to do whatever they wish, whether that’s running errands, making time for a hobby, volunteering, spending more time with children and family or learning a new skill.
“This is not simply a three-day weekend,” says Gupta, or an extra day off, but is designed to be “intentional.” Polar isn’t reducing compensation nor is the company asking employees to put in longer hours on the four days they are working. Gupta looks at the time as giving back to employees, and part of their recognition in addition to compensation. He believes that by giving back to employees in this way, they will be inspired to take greater ownership and responsibility for the business and it will help with the overall mental health of employees. The experiment requires rethinking how people work during the other four days, and encourages prioritization.
IPG Mediabrands appointed its first global chief culture officer who will oversee worldwide cultural efforts including diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, planning and execution, Ad Age’s Lindsay Rittenhouse reports. Hermon Ghermay, who joins the agency from the executive search firm Grace Blue, will be responsible for holding leadership accountable for the company’s diversity commitments and goals.
David&Goliath hired Tiffany Persons as its first director of empathy. It’s an unusual title, to be sure. In the role, Persons will conduct workshops to “unlock empathy,” recruit Black talent at every level and foster an environment to help retain, recognize and promote growth of BIPOC employees.
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.
From CMO Strategy to the Ad Age Datacenter Weekly, we’ve got newsletters galore. See them all here.
Subscribers make the difference. Individual, group and corporate subscriptions are available—including access to our Ad Age Datacenter. Find options at AdAge.com/membership.