Foxtel's Mark Frain on how to define ‘business-as-usual’ in a coronavirus world

By Mark Frain | 24 March 2020
Foxtel Media executives working from home.

In 2020 we are facing a transformational shift, with the COVID-19 pandemic profoundly changing our industry and the way we work. 

It is not crazy to think that many of the changes we make today will become the new "business as usual", and help reshape both the media sector and the way we work. And perhaps it was time for this to happen. Those who rise to the challenge, question the status quo and focus on delivering the best service for their partners will fare well.

For businesses, including our clients and partners - this is the first time they've had to grips with remote working in a serious and real way. For many managers, it's a challenging prospect not to see employees at their desks from nine-to-five (or eight-to-six). But research shows that remote working and flexible working can actually be a major advantage – with some serious benefits.

Here is how I hope to see our own remote working roll-out contribute to a brighter future for Foxtel Media:

Higher productivity

Working from home can be more efficient - for starters, you’re not wasting a couple of hours each day commuting. Having to arrange specific times to speak with people - whether by phone or teleconference - makes meetings more focused. There are less interruptions and irritations, such as someone’s loud phone call or noisy lunch-eating. A survey by Stanford University found that employees who work from home are 13% more productive than their in-office colleagues. In other research, 85% of businesses reported higher productivity from greater flexibility.

Sharper focus

Working from home gives you a chance to really focus on what is important. Our catch ups are all about what matters: both in terms of our people and customers, and then what will build revenue. Getting out of the office is critical for networking and working on-site with clients. We are seeing our clients respond well to this sharper focus too. Across the team we have this greater ambition to make the time count and really ‘land the catch’ on actions and outcomes.

Greater balance

It’s easier to take meaningful breaks when you work from home, and go for a walk in your local neighbourhood. Turn your saved commuting time into extra leisure, exercise and family time - such as helping kids with homework. Owl Labs found that remote workers were 22% happier than office-based workers, due to a better work-life balance.

Being human

One of the main challenges for remote working is that human interaction will always be very important, and especially in a work context. Thankfully we have technology to help with this. Apps like Slack or Workplace can create a sense of community, with channels for serious collaboration as well as ones for "water cooler" chat. While we need to be responsible with band-width usage in the current environment, we are also encouraging our teams at Foxtel Media to connect via videoconferencing - voice-only meetings can become disembodied, and it’s harder to read people’s reactions and emotions without visible queues.

With less face-to-face interaction and people at home, our leaders will need new skills to lead remote teams, maintain connection and productivity, and manage the mental wellbeing of individuals during challenging times

Marketing shines

Another thing that’s really come into focus for me and the rest of the team at Foxtel Media, is that, while ad dollars may be under pressure in the short term, in the long term there will be a greater reliance that ever before on marketing across businesses. 

The rapidly changing external environment means that businesses will need to be closer to the customer in the coming months and years, especially as we move into a post-pandemic world. This includes understanding the new ways in which customers are thinking about the world, our brands and our products. Already the new work patterns are seeing the customer to consume media in different ways including more time nesting at home consuming television and a greater premium on reliable news sources. 

In these very difficult time – it’s critical for marketing to be at its best in helping drive business results– and our job is to help brands and agencies be more effective than ever. 

As we move into a brave new future, It’s time to be more creative and think about what long term change is desirable. Many businesses will be more agile when all this settles, leaders will need new skills and we will all have re-learnt the skill of making fast and difficult choices. 

In this new transformed media world – Foxtel Media is committed to be at the forefront, working alongside brands, agencies and channel partners to help people connect, educated and be entertained. 

Mark Frain is CEO of Foxtel Media

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