Perspective - Nothing compares to the synergy of the office water cooler

By Michelle Holland | 11 December 2023
Michelle Holland, Managing Director, Ogilvy Sydney.

In a world that's racing towards an increasingly digital future, the ability to adapt, innovate, and find harmony between the digital and the human is the path to success.

But it’s also a path that is filled with challenges, particularly for an industry where online strategies and adapting to new customer expectations has become paramount. This paradigm shift has ushered in an unprecedented surge in demand for digital marketing, e-commerce, and data analytics, forever altering the landscape of our field.

It has also presented a myriad of challenges, and in 2023, one stood out amidst the rest - the era of hybrid working. It's not the model itself that posed difficulties; the flexibility it offers is a boon to our staff and agency. The true test has been finding the equilibrium between the need for staff to craft their working weeks with flexibility and the indispensable in-person connections.

Despite the allure of virtual meetings, nothing quite compares to the synergy and insights shared around the office water cooler.

Recognising that no two employees are identical, we have increasingly extended flexible work schedules to accommodate their diverse needs. This might encompass options for flexible start and end times or condensed workweeks. This has undoubtedly provided more of the flexibility our employees value, but balancing these accommodations with client and agency requirements has also proven to be a formidable challenge.

So too the dependence on technology for remote work, which can be a double-edged sword. Technical glitches, be it internet outages or software hiccups, can disrupt productivity and derail collaboration, casting a shadow on client and team meetings. Consistent technical problems have the potential to ignite employee frustration and, ultimately, lead to burnout, something our industry as a whole has grappled with in the past, and something Ogilvy has consistently taken great measures to avoid.

When meetings unravel due to technical issues, rescheduling often becomes an unwelcome necessity, inconveniencing both internal and external parties involved. Such disruptions can also curtail meetings prematurely, robbing presentations of their opportunity to shine.

And yet the benefits of better work-life balance which allows our teams to allocate more time to self-care activities, such as exercise, relaxation, and spending quality time with loved ones, continues to reap multiple benefits. 2023 has taught us to remain firmly committed to fostering employee well-being and work-life balance. In pursuit of this goal, our organisation is dedicated to implementing various strategies to support our workforce. These initiatives encompass bolstering time management practices, offering valuable resources, and delivering training opportunities to help employees optimise their work schedules and tasks, as well as encouraging them to establish clear objectives and harness time management tools and techniques.

Furthermore, we are actively exploring avenues to enhance employee well-being by introducing a range of initiatives. These may manifest as fitness classes and stress management workshops, as well as providing confidential counselling services and resources to empower employees in addressing personal and work-related challenges.

Equally essential is our ongoing commitment to nurturing a workplace culture that is inclusive, supportive, and conducive to open communication, teamwork, and the establishment of a robust work-life boundary. We are dedicated to promoting a culture that not only endorses but also celebrates the importance of breaks, the setting of boundaries, and self-care practices.

This way we aim to create an environment where individuals can thrive both personally and professionally. This approach not only benefits our team members but also contributes to the long-term success and sustainability of our organisation.

But achieving all of this with a hybrid workforce remains a challenge. And finding the right balance will remain a challenge well into 2024 – albeit one we remain strongly committed to working through.

And the challenges into 2024 don’t stop there. Others include privacy concerns, stringent regulatory changes, and the intricate task of striking a delicate balance between personalisation and respecting user privacy, particularly in the face of robust data protection regulations such as GDPR and the Australian Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme.

But one thing remains a constant. Those brands and agencies that can navigate these challenges with an engaged and supported workforce that taps into creativity as a business solution will be best positioned for long-term success in this dynamic and ever-changing landscape.

Michelle Holland, Managing Director, Ogilvy Sydney

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