Did the post-Covid hybrid working model reduce the efficiency of previously office-based marketers, or has productiveness and profitability increased? We speak to a selection of agencies and consultancies to get the lowdown. The conclusion? Hybrid working is ‘sensible’.
“Having worked in environments that did enforce being in the office across the whole team, I can’t imagine a way that ‘office only’ could get the best from a marketing function.”
So says Charlotte Boerescu‑Kelly, head of marketing at The GO! Network, a business management consultancy in Manchester.
“Marketing teams aren’t sales teams – most of the time, there’s almost an exact split in what we do between work that’s best done in the office and work that’s best done from home.”
The Office for National Statistics highlights this trend for splitting time between a permanent office space and living quarters.
Across all industries between September 2022 and January 2023, 16% of professionals worked solely from home; 28% were hybrid workers.
Moreso, 40% had worked from home at some point in the past seven days, compared with just 12% in 2019.
What Charlotte makes clear is the reality of marketing work means it is one of many sectors particularly aided by either working from home or hybrid arrangements.
“Marketers rely on engaging internal teams and stakeholders to successfully deliver our strategy and that’s 100% activity that needs face-to-face engagement. On the other hand, a lot of content marketing and planning activity isn’t conducive to being in a busy office space where focus is hard to come by.
“For our team, a hybrid approach allows us to plan for both and maximise our output depending on what needs to take priority each week. We keep in active comms when we’re not in the same place and try to map our weeks to get as much face-time as possible on the office days.
“Hybrid working just feels like sensible resource allocation for marketers.”
The seismic shift in the working environment caused by the pandemic clearly didn’t affect – or suit – every job, but when so much time is taken up with research, data analysis, content production and other laptop-based processes, marketing can be seen as an outlier.
And the benefits of a 100% home or hybrid approach are clear when you speak to the people at the centre of this change.
Travel management company TravelPerk recently conducted a survey of 1,000 UK office workers across a range of levels and found that spending less time commuting, being more productive and a better focus were among the top reasons for non-office work.
‘Fully remote working may cause problems’
Yet there still appears to be pushback against marketing teams avoiding the office entirely.
Sharon Flaherty, CEO of Folk, an inclusive communications agency, believes that workers may be missing out on vital learning.
“At Folk, we have been hybrid working since the pandemic with three days in the office and two days home working.
“I think those businesses adopting a fully remote policy are creating problems down the line that we’re yet to see such as skills gaps and underdeveloped management skills. I’ve lost count of the number of junior staff I have interviewed recently who are leaving remote based jobs because they are missing out on vital training and learning, and time with their manager.”
Marketing and PR jobs offer the second-most flexibility when it comes to full and partial remote conditions, just behind IT according to a survey from Gartner, with the number of roles offering such ‘benefits’ increasing from just 9% in 2019 to 37% last year.
The average hybrid model, according to our research, seems to be a minimum of two days in the office, and many espouse such an arrangement.
“As a tech start-up, Sopro prides itself on offering progressive work culture. We have a company-wide policy that is the same for all departments: Employees must come into the office at least twice a week.
“No one in the marketing industry needs to be told twice how important communication is and as marketers we do value those face-to-face, ‘over the water cooler’ conversations. Marketers are creative and adaptable by nature and used to managing multiple tasks and juggling peaks and troughs in workload. Which is why I feel that of all the teams, marketing functions can deliver equally as well from any location,” claims Victoria Heyward, director of brand & content strategy.
Alternative sectors in marketing expect even less commuting from their employees. Lauren Wakeling, UK Country Manager at CourseOnline, a marketing education portal, reveals her team is down to just one day a week.
“The team has gone from five days a week in our Central London office pre-Covid, to hybrid working with only one day a week now all together in the office. It’s been great for productivity with a lot of our team being based outside of London, primarily as there’s no lengthy commute.
“Also, with our parent company being based in Australia which necessitates frequent late night calls, we tend to feel a lot fresher if we haven’t had to trek into town either side of a day’s work. Ultimately, there’s been no downsides to our team working largely remotely and there would be no business value in making them work in an office environment.”
The one unilateral conclusion from all respondents was one of longevity; this era of hybrid or remote working is not disappearing as it – at least on the surface – is currently working well.
Daniel Jenkins, head of client services at Wagada Digital, a digital marketing agency concludes.
“Our Cheltenham-based team has a happy balance of office and working from home. We have lots of collaboration within our office time, as well as plenty of focus time when team members do work from home. Hybrid working works for both the team and I, and our own internal data shows higher levels of efficiency since we moved to this model.
“From my perspective, employee satisfaction is high and when the team is in the office there is a good energy to our days because of the balance of operating a hybrid system.”