Mindshare UK’s MD on the return to the office

Mindshare UK’s MD on the return to the office

The final stage of easing lockdown restrictions, expected to take place in the UK on 19 July, will mean an opportunity to return to the office. But will marketing agency staff trickle through the door or will they stampede?

Mindshare UK, with more than 400 staff in its London offices (rising to over 800 when including the Mindshare Global employees on site), is introducing a new Flexible Working Framework. It will see staff offered a 50-50 arrangement between office and home working once restrictions are eased.

The approach, says Fleur Stoppani, Managing Director, Mindshare UK, is one that while acknowledging the company is a “client-facing business” is also sensitive to varying levels of confidence in the return to the office.

She says, “People want to get back to the office to collaborate on client work and meet people face-to-face but we don’t want to make sure everyone is back in the office all the time. We’re going to ask them to be in at least 50 percent of the time.

“Some will be here two days a week, others three days a week. Some people, especially our many younger employees, will want to come in every single day and that’s OK.”

Internal employee surveys at the turn of the year revealed that around 80 percent of Mindshare UK employees were keen to return to the office. Fleur expects this to have risen since then as confidence in the vaccine programme and other mitigation measures has grown.

Fleur Stoppani

Virtual collaboration

During the pandemic, virtual collaboration has been enabled at the agency using an array of tools, including MS Teams, Miro and Mural. These will continue to be used when remote working.

Fleur says, “Mural and Miro allow us to create templates that look the way we want and we have used sessions for workshops, brainstorming, and bringing teams together, as well as creative presentations to clients, though in a different way. We found these worked well. In meetings, though, it has been hard to get everyone’s point of view.

“Collaboration is hard to do virtually.”

It is hoped the Flexible Working Framework, launched three months ago, will change the working culture in positive ways. With a new core hours policy, in which Mindshare employees will work agreed hours, Fleur is hoping to achieve a healthy work-life balance for all staff.

Burn out among agency staff has been a widely-reported issue during the pandemic as employees struggled to separate working and leisure time while working from home.

This is “a huge concern” says Fleur.

“We have to make sure people get space,” she says.

Initiatives to address the issue include creating a talking culture that is open about stress, a ‘wellbeing hour’ devoted to relaxation, exercise or talking, pairing random people for ‘coffee and a chat’, as well as the introduction of trained Mental Health Allies to help employees discuss stress and burn-out concerns.

"Ramping up"

Among the ERGs (Employee Resource Groups), including working parents and Women in Business, there is hope that core hours and flexible working could also help address the pay gap, says Fleur.

“It should make it easier to find childcare and other solutions so a lot of people are really welcoming it. We’ll be testing it over the next five months,” she says.

Fleur, a 16-year veteran of the agency and former Chief Client Officer, is looking forward to the office return personally.

“I miss seeing people sitting in teams, coming up with solutions, and people spontaneously putting in ideas – you can’t just pull someone in as we are [working from home],” she says.

In mid-June, the agency built its desk-booking capacity and this had to be increased a week later.

“Now, it’s definitely ramping up,” she says.