After almost two years of remote working, some ad agencies have finally opened their offices, albeit in limited capacities. Some, though, have chosen to continue working from home. Leaderships at various network agencies now suggest people could finally be back at physical offices this festive period.
After the second wave subsided, people were wary of the third wave. But as of now, it seems the number of cases is under control.
“We shall open offices in 14-15 days. We will follow a hybrid working model where a certain amount of people who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to return. There will be a certain cap decided by our global offices. Our sense is that most people are very keen to get back to work. The hybrid model is going to be the future,” said Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India.
Anupriya Acharya, South Asia CEO, Publicis Groupe, said some of their offices have opened up in key cities after the second wave receded. However, they are being used by teams on a select basis.
“In the meantime, over the last few months, we have organised multiple vaccination drives across offices and in tandem with a wide network of hospitals and vaccination centres for all our people and their families. We expect 90% of our people to be fully vaccinated and they are looking to return to office post-Dussehra. All our offices are ready, sanitised, and have all safeguards and protective measures in place. To begin with, we will be looking at gradual and rotational RTO (return to office) and then later expect to have some sort of a hybrid model,” she said.
On the other hand, Vandana Tilwani, Chief Human Resources Officer, Havas Group India, said their offices opened up with 50% capacity across cities. “Employees are keen to get back. While they all worry about safety, we have ensured that our offices are geared to receive them with stringent protocols and safety measures,” she added.
After almost two years, people have grown somewhat comfortable with the idea of working remotely. Mid-level and junior level employees have continuously been discussing on various social media platforms the need for physical offices to open. So will this affect how agencies operate?
According to Sinha, even though work gets done, relationships do get affected. “People may not want to come five days a week but they would want some interaction because we're in the business where the best ideas come from discussions around the table. Although projects have not been impacted because work is anyway getting done, team bonding, relationships, etc., are important. India is a very social country where people talk to each other. There are formal and informal understandings between relationships that have been affected.”
Acharya said a lot of their talent is excited about returning to office and is looking forward to interacting with their colleagues in person. She said a lot of the new hires will get to experience the office environment for the first time.
“The office adds to a sense of community and belonging and leads to better, more meaningful working relationships. It is not just a place of work, but also a place of camaraderie and banter, brainstorming and exchange of ideas. Our experience is that remote working, though extremely useful, comes with its share of challenges such as cramped spaces, infrastructural hassles, connectivity problems, etc. Across departments, many from our workforce have in fact reached out to us, inquiring about an early return to office because this is a dedicated work area with full systems, amenities and convenience. The process of work itself becomes a lot smoother and hassle-free when in the office. As we speak, we are conducting a survey around RTO (return to office). We will listen closely to our people and their needs and will take it into account while evolving policies around RTO,” said Acharya.
“Employees across levels have grown comfortable working from home and that is only natural considering the time the pandemic has forced us to stay indoors. However, they also miss the one-on-one interactions with colleagues and the office environment. I think a phased-out come-back will be ideal and more welcome by all,” said Tilwani.
She said while the WFH experience has proven to us that work can indeed be done from home, some people need an office environment to be productive. “If eventually offices open up, which I believe they will, I think we all will need to once again find the best way to be productive,” she concluded.