Hybrid working...an update

 I was wondering what topic to cover for my July Blog and it's actually over a year since I last talked about hybrid working in the creative services sector.  It does seem to be a moving feast and many agencies who had previously been working remotely post pandemic have found themselves gradually moving back to the office.

Given that pre-pandemic, it was extremely rare to even have one WFH day per week, the sector has adapted significantly.  Yes, we proved we could work remotely and get the job done....but whilst some people thrived in the WFH model, there were others who struggled and in particular a lot of junior staff missed out on the 'on the job' training that you get simply by watching and learning. 

In the Creative sector, we do work more collaboratively than in other sectors.  Suits working with Creatives, Dev teams working alongside both, Strategists across all the areas... Many people are tired now of the relentlessness of Teams or Zoom calls.  A very efficient way of completing meetings but not always the channel where ideas are shared, brainstormed and creative briefs finalised.   Efficient has proved fantastic for working parents who are time poor and where the lack of a commute allows them to drop off and pick up without any stress of presenteeism but I do wonder if the lack of face to face meetings does lead, ultimately to a lack of the 'wow' factor when it comes to creativity.  And a lack of the core team values where teams truly gel together and work closely to achieve their goals.  

For the most part, regional creative and advertising agencies are in the office for at least 3 days per week.  I've had a few roles recently which have been 5 office days per week  - particularly the smaller independent agencies.  We have gained from the pandemic more flexible hours with the concept of 'core hours' allowing individuals to be a bit more flexible with start and finish times - that in itself is a win.  But the WFH vs the hybrid model is going to be up for debate for a good while longer.    Junior staff definitely benefit from being with other people, most of my junior candidates are very happy to be office based - the exception being where individuals are still living with parents or family out of town and are not keen to be paying a full commute cost weekly.   Salaries are behaving quite schizophrenically, particularly for midweight and junior roles (Suits, digital and creative) with clients often fighting and negotiating hard, however, they are generally unwilling to change their hybrid status.  

So I think we'll end up with the remote workers, the hybrid and the office based.  3 distinct segments and as recruiters, we'll have to adapt to know which agencies will accommodate those with different requirements.  Compromise will be key for individuals on both sides of the fence.  More money may encourage more office based time but equally, in a candidate driven market, we may find that agencies increasingly will have to stay open minded in order to attract the best candidates. 

For the senior leadership people in agencies, whilst they may love the opportunity presented by remote working, it's also essential to lead from the front and that generally is best done in person - within the office.  Being a recognised, visible figurehead within your team will ensure that staff retention is high as employees are more engaged with the business values and culture.  We coped WFH because we had to....but every individual has a different personal set of circumstances which will drive their preference for being office based or not.  I do think we will continue to see more change here and I am sure it is different for every sector.  One size does not fit all!