What the advertising industry wants from a return to the office

Mariam Cheik-Hussein
By Mariam Cheik-Hussein | 2 July 2020

The advertising industry is starting to emerge from months-long lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and return, at least partially, to the office. 

The new work-from-home lifestyle which began in March forced business to quickly adapt, finding ways to operate and communicate with teams and clients while isolated in their homes. 

Across the industry, many found positives, including the extra time with family, skipping out on the frustrations of public transport, the flexibility around their work hours and the quiet of being away from the office. 

But as the novelty of working from home wore off, a common theme has emerged, many are missing their colleagues, or “work family”, as well as the productivity that comes with being part of a team. 

The return to the office will be gradual, not the “snap back” the government was originally hoping for when the pandemic began in March. 

Rather than five days in the office, many, with their hours already reduced as a result of the pandemic’s pressure on the economy, are instead looking at returning to the office for only a few days a week. 

The balance between working from home and coming into the office throughout the week is a welcome one. In addition to reconnecting with colleagues, people also want a break between their work life and home life, which were blurred throughout lockdowns.

During lockdown AdNews introduced The WFH Diaries, a series about how people were coping during social isolation. Here's a selection of comments about returning to the office: 

Ricky Chanana, Twitch AUNZ head of sales: Most of all I am really looking forward to connecting with people. Reminiscing about the good days, the bad days, and how fortunate we all are to have each other in this industry that has brought everyone even closer during these challenging times. My colleagues really are some of my closest friends, I definitely miss seeing them every day and going out for spicy Margaritas.

Amber Clarke, The Project Factory senior account manager: I miss the office bants and dad jokes.
Paige Owen, Rubicon Project account manager: I miss my coworkers. It’s cheesy, but I love them. I’m also looking forward to having someplace different to go as it breaks up the day.

Luke Spano, Avid Collective managing director: The team. The team. The team.
Work and being in a workplace is worthwhile to me because of what we are building together. I am very excited to be around them on a daily basis again. Even if it means I am made fun of and laughed at five to ten more times a day than is happening at the moment…

Matt Fiorenza, Network Ten sponsorship manager: I can’t wait to be face-to-face with everyone again. As a sales team and being in media, we are all very much people-people so a lot of us are missing that interaction. The sales floor at 10 is always a vibrant place to work so just can’t wait to get back to Lisa Squillace popping out of her office to give us an update, Guy Tesoriero going into a Wikipedia spiral on whatever topic we are discussing at the time or Dan Rigg-Smith celebrating an occasion, for example, ANZAC Day or the Queen’s Birthday, with treats all over our desks.

Angus Keene, Twitter Australia director of sales: Just being back with the team. Twitter Australia is an incredibly tight knit group and I really miss that vibrant day to day office environment. We're lucky enough to have a culture squad who collaborate to create fun activities and workplace initiatives each month. I can't wait to get back in the mix.

Chris Reid, Southern Cross Austereo agency account manager: I miss the collectiveof our team, the friendly banter, and being inspired by those around me. We’re fortunate to have an abundance of tech-led ways to stay in touch - but it’s not a complete replacement for in-person interactions. In an industry that is famous (perhaps infamous?) for being highly social, it’s often those authentic connections that we create beyond the screen and off the phone that are the most memorable.

Lucy Billington, M&C Saatchi Sydney group marketing director: We are an industry of extroverts, and whilst I am not the most extreme, I will forever now appreciate the little things. The 50 pop-by-my-desk chats a day, the (often insightful) conversations in the hallways and kitchens, and being able to have a delicious family lunch every day – without cooking it myself.

Deirdre Fogarty, TripleM network assistant digital content director: Coming up with creative ideas is a lot more fun when you’re surrounded by other people. I’m missing the off-the-cuff conversations that spark an idea that turns into a great piece of online content; it’s just not the same in isolation.

Angie Smith, MediaSmiths managing director: I’m really looking forward to seeing my team and getting on with doing what we do best for our clients. The ability to brainstorm together is something that is difficult to replicate via online methods. The overall face to face human element is so important in what we do; building relationships with team members, clients and suppliers and I’m looking forward to getting back to that.

Paul Sharp, VCCP creative director: You can’t beat proximity for working as a team. Sure we’re all smart and adaptable, but the ability to holler over to a colleague a few desks away and get an immediate update or sense check is always going to be better than booking in a five min "Hang Out" or waiting for a "Slack" response.

Andreea Chirila, Kantar media and digital associate director: I miss the human interaction, or simply the moments where you can turn around and say “hey, can I ask you a quick question on this…?”

Ally Coleman, Audience Precision CFO: We are a great team, and bounce ideas freely off each other, whilst it’s amazing to have Zoom and Skype, the office allows the free flow of ideas easily. Also, we just launched and moved into our new office – so it would be lovely to get back in there and make it truly our home.

Sally Harley, littleBIG Marketing founder and director: Incidental conversation (or even overhearing conversations!) can be gold for identifying new opportunities for clients and inspiring ideas across the business. There's no better way for junior staff to flourish than to observe their managers doing their thang, and soak up all that agency buzz. Our people are awesome and I miss them.

Stephanie Godfrey, AdColony sales manager: I think it's nice to have a place to separate business from pleasure so that your home feels like a place of escape, continuously working from home can blurr those lines. I also miss meeting up with friends after work for a sneaky wine or long lunches with colleagues on a Friday.

Adele Wieser, Index Exchange APAC regional managing director: I genuinely miss my team and our tight knit industry. While some of the in-office antics and banter has thankfully stayed with us with the help of tools like Slack and Bluejeans, they haven’t completely replaced throwing around some banter in person or laughing at a silly Gif together! Virtual coffees have been a great forum to keep in contact with our partners, but they really just aren’t the same as sitting down and having an honest and thought provoking conversation.

Garry Dean, Nova Entertainment’s CREATE group manager for creative services: My absence from home will make my wife grow fonder of me again.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at adnews@yaffa.com.au

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