Sadoun details Publicis Groupe's plans to return to the office in staff memo
Publicis Groupe Chairman-CEO Arthur Sadoun, standing in a Chicago office, detailed the holding company's return-to-office plans in his latest all-staff video memo, which was reviewed by Ad Age. In it, he assured employees that no one is expected to come back until a vaccine is found and even then "remote work will be an integrated part of our daily culture."
"As you can see for this month’s video, my background has changed," Sadoun said in the opening of the video. "That’s because I’m lucky enough to be in our office in Chicago. Today, I wanted to touch on an important topic that you raised during our first live roundtable in August: returning to the office. As you can imagine, how we return to the office is a complex matter."
The roundtable discussion to which he referred was hosted live in August via Publicis Groupe's AI platform Marcel, which rolled out to U.S. staff in April. Sadoun said in his video today that Marcel will play an integral role in remote work for the company going forward although he did not provide details. Still, he says offices will remain "the center and heartbeat of work life."
Sadoun commented in the video on some of the "extreme positions" other companies like Twitter and Netflix have taken in their return-to-office plans—i.e. Twitter declared a permanent remote working model while Netflix Co-CEO, Chairman and Founder Reed Hastings called remote work a "pure negative."
"For once, I am not going to be controversial and do not stand in either of those camps," Sadoun said. "What is certain is that Publicis will not be a Zoom company. Nor will Publicis be a 100% in-office company."
He added that "once we have a vaccine, and not before," Publicis offices will back as "as our primary place of work."
"While we have learned how to work effectively remotely, we have also seen its limitations," Sadoun said. "And once we have a vaccine, we will need to get back to our offices to unleash our shared potential, to achieve more than what we can do alone, preserve the culture of our agencies, and to work for something greater than ourselves."
It is not entirely clear how remote work will be integrated into the company's model. Sadoun noted that "there is no one-size-fits-all solution" and that Chief Talent Officer Emmanuel Andre "and his team are working hard with many of you to provide clear direction on what the future of work will be." He said Publicis will share "clear guidelines" on that front by the end of the year.
Sadoun also said he's gotten back to traveling, as is clear from his Chicago location in the video. He noted that over the past few weeks, he's "met with many of you around the world." That initiative started in France and expanded to 25 in-person meetings in the U.S. with "those that were comfortable coming in," according to Sadoun.
"Despite the very strict sanitary measures that required masks and three meters of distance between us," he said, "it was so good to finally see each other, hear conversation and laugh a bit, and feel the passion and energy of a live group dynamic."
Sadoun said those meetings allowed him to understand how different people are experiencing the pandemic and new working situation. He said the company has learned that 25% of its employees have young children at home; 30% are under 30 years old and therefore "it is our management’s responsibility to ensure that you don’t become invisible so you can continue to progress in your careers"; and a surprising 60% are living alone, which "makes the effects of isolation greater."
According to Sadoun, all of Publicis Groupe's staff in China have returned to the office, 20% have returned in Europe, but only 3% have returned in the U.S.
Sadoun concludes the video by announcing that the company will be giving all U.S. employees a full week off for the Thanksgiving holiday in recognition of "how difficult this year has been."