Survey says marketers want more flexible working in a post-lockdown world

Survey says marketers want more flexible working in a post-lockdown world

As the prime minister seeks to restart normal life by allowing some people back to work, marketers working from home are saying they are just as productive at home, although they concede there are some disadvantages.

In the first ever Just.Marketing/VMAGROUP survey, the majority of respondents say working from home has been a revelation.

Chris Fiorillo, CMO at Infosys Consulting, a management consultancy, says, “There’s been a dramatic realisation among most of our clients: if we didn’t have an office we could work super efficiently. It [the experience of working remotely] will radically disrupt our workforce in terms of office footprint and so on, in the future.”

Leor Franks, CMO, Augusta, a company that provides litigation and dispute funding, agrees that in the consulting sector a lot of firms are questioning the need for an office.

“I know a CFO who says he is reviewing how much the company spends on desks. With Zoom, he seriously believes he might cut desks in their central London office by 50 per cent,” he says.

A cultural change?

Jimmy Ingram, Marketing and Digital Lead, VMAGROUP, says, “It’s a conversation we’re having frequently at the moment as companies prepare to re-open the office and welcome staff back once restrictions are eased.

“We'll absolutely see a more flexible approach to remote working as companies have a duty to protect their staff. Employee expectations are rising, and most people I'm speaking with aren't keen to jump on a packed train any time soon when they can continue to be just as productive working from home.”

Jimmy Ingram

As time goes by, however, there are questions about how remote working will affect creativity. Interaction – whether a planned brainstorm or an informal water cooler chat – can spark fresh ideas.

Simon Mott, Director of Marketing, HANetf, an investment company, says, “You can talk to someone in a lift and all of a sudden it changes what you’re doing. It’s the idea generation you get from being close to people.”

Chris agrees. He says remote working has also made it harder for a CMO to ‘read’ the nuanced emotions of colleagues when interacting digitally.

“A lot of work gets done through relationships and so much happens in those small moments. We’re so tactical and operationally-focused during the chaos. You get a sense of how to interact with someone by the tone of their voice and other non-verbal signals normally but you don’t see that working remotely,” he says.

A more productive, better lifestyle?

There is one clear finding in the survey; the extra hours available to those who now have no commute are paying dividends in terms of efficiency, productivity and lifestyle. The three-hours usually spent on a packed train can now be spent working, attending a webinar, exercising or preparing a proper meal.

As Simon says, “It frees up time. If you’re task-oriented, this is a good environment for you. It’s still early days and projects take a lot more co-ordination, so it’s harder, but people will get used to this.”

This all raises a huge question: will the way marketers work be changed in the aftermath of the lockdown?

Jimmy has seen anecdotal evidence that it will.

“Businesses have a duty to be socially responsible, taking steps to limit commuting and crowding so I'm sure we'll see more investment in digital training and flexible or remote working being the new norm. Inevitably we'll see companies rent out unused space or adopt a co-working model,” he says.