Jon Williams
Apr 5, 2021

Adland's astonishing attitude on office work is more Goldman than Google

Progressive businesses are allowing talent to work from home yet much of adland wants to drag staff into offices, points out one industry leader.

Adland's astonishing attitude on office work is more Goldman than Google

The raging debate in our trade press right now is around whether to implement 3-2 or 2-3 in/out as we shuffle nervously back to the office.

I can't believe by how far that misses the point. Can’t we see the other doors that have opened while the agency doors have been chained shut. There are options, you know?

As progressive bosses at Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce allow their talent to work from home forever, please let’s not fail to notice how out of touch we are as an industry as we try to drag everyone back.

This debate is about the future of work. Not just the future of advertising. And we’re not exactly leading that. Astonishingly our attitude is closer to David Soloman, chief executive at Goldman Sachs, who called the homeworking situation an "aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible".

Let’s not forget you are judged by the company you keep. And suddenly we find ourselves at the bankers' end of the table. Silicon Valley seems a very long way away.

Nearly four years ago we moved from bricks and mortar to a tech stack for a bunch of reasons, not least because we thought it was about time that someone applied platform efficiencies to the creative process.

We have no marble reception, no baristas, no table football. Now Covid-19 has forced that shift on everyone. In the worst way that we could ever possibly imagine – but it did. And we’ve all by and large got by, haven’t we?

Actually, it helped a lot of people understand why we do what we do. How with the right support, being in control of your work-life balance leads to better work. How running your own time management can be more efficient. How when you’re closer to your kids you can be closer to your client as well.

In fact, for the independent creatives and strategists in The Guild, it’s not about working from home, it’s about what we call "working from anywhere". Anywhere but an old skool office.

On top of the mental shift, the lockdowns have accelerated the physical move out of town for those who have a choice. New York, London, Mumbai, Singapore all emptied. The diaspora ended up in the north of Scotland, further upstate, The Grenadines, Goa, somewhere just outside the M25, wherever.

Technology affords everyone lucky enough to be in the service industries the ability to go wherever they damn well want to, in a way that couldn’t happen just five years ago. The genie is out of the bottle. Let’s not embarrass ourselves by trying to force it back in.

Now we've proved to ourselves that we can live without the soma that is agency "culture", this desire to get "back in the building" is so unnecessary.

We know that you don't need the office to actually work. So, what do you need it for? Yes, people need people, and there are ways to make that happen. But one weekend off in four, pitch pizza and the boss's gold Amex behind the bar once a week? Really?

For high-performing talent, culture is about connection. Life balance. Family. Being the best you can be with mutual support. So, what do you need the office for? Just ego? The marble reception had already begun to lose its sheen with the clients, who know exactly who pays for it.

Jon Williams is the chief executve of The Liberty Guild and former chief creative officer at Grey Europe. 'Smarter Working' is a Campaign UK series about new ways of working after Covid.

Campaign UK

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