Across the ad business, colleagues are reuniting. But they are not necessarily rejoicing about it.
Whether it’s people having to tell coworkers to “keep it down” on Zoom calls or employees strolling into meetings late—sometimes dressed more for Saturday chores than for the workplace— the industry is awash with tales about the slow, occasionally bumpy readjustment to office life after more than two years largely hunkered down at home.
“What I’ve witnessed is a high degree of noncompliance from those who don’t want to be back in the office environment,” citing everything from employees letting their desks get too cluttered to extended lunch breaks, said Marc Bromhall, founder of email marketing firm SmartOutreach in Cape Town, South Africa. Employee behavior became so problematic that Bromhall had his HR person draft and circulate a document outlining workplace procedures.
It is a predicament that’s bound to become more common as offices open back up. Half of company leaders either already require or are planning to demand their employees to return to full-time, in-person work, according to Microsoft’s Annual Work Trend Index Report, released in March. Many others continue to operate under hybrid arrangements. Meanwhile, more than half of workers polled by Bloomberg back in January said they’d rather quit than be forced to return to the office.
Can you hear me now?
One of the biggest complaints is noise. In fact, one agency, Wongdoody, gave its employees a stipend to buy earbuds to use at the office, according to Assistant VP and Senior Client Partner Kinley Lagrange. “We grossly underestimated the amount of time we’re all still spending on web conferences,” added David Witting, managing director, digital products at the global digital agency Dept, which is headquartered in Amsterdam. Witting works out of the Boston office, which reopened its doors the first week of March to the cacophony of competing meetings. “People are coming into the office, but we did not purchase enough privacy booths,” he said. “We had to scratch two of our soft-seating areas to accommodate more privacy booths.”