With working from home becoming the new norm – major agency groups and client companies have implemented strict new measures for staff over the coronavirus outbreak – former marketing professor Mark Ritson has given short shrift to so-called “gurus” dishing out advice on the home-working phenomenon.
Many of the biggest brands in the world, including Google, Ford and Unilever have already moved to work from home policies and Apple has shut all its stores, with the major agency groups following suit.
WPP’s 100,000 global employees were sent an internal memo over the weekend from CEO Mark Read and have been asked to work from home “wherever possible”.
Read, who admitted that “the next few months will be tough”, said offices will remain open subject to government policy in each country, but the group “will take action to greatly reduce the density of people in our buildings and the amount of travel to and from work”.
The memo states: “Covid-19 is touching all of our lives. Our top priority in this unsettling time is your wellbeing, and doing what we can to mitigate the impact of the virus on our communities. Governments, scientists and medical advisors are asking companies to do two things: to help limit or slow transmission, and to keep economies moving and people employed so that societies are able to function.”
Meanwhile, Omnicom boss John Wren has sent an email to the company’s 70,000 employees stating that it will be moving to a global work from home policy from today (March 16).
He stressed that essential staff only are to go into the office and they must maintain the recommended social distance. Wren added: “We are asking for the support of our agency leaders to make certain our people work remotely and only essential staff go into the office. If you have not done so already, please ensure in the next day or so that you collect what you need to work from home. In addition, we are encouraging all of you to follow the guidance of national, local and city regulatory authorities.”
Publicis Groupe, which was one of the first to restrict travel, has set up a 24/7 Covid-19 support team across global time zones who are managing individual employee requests.
In a statement, it said: “We continue to serve our clients with our business continuity strategy, including mobile workforce enablement so that teams are able to work remotely in compliance with local regulations, our IT Security & Privacy Policies and specific client needs per regulatory requirements.
“We are continuously monitoring the Covid-19 virus situation and in addition to the increased measures we are taking to ensure the safety of our employees, we remain in alignment with the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as advice from local authorities in our respective markets.”
Finally, Havas Group North America ordered all staff to work from home last week to test if its businesses can withstand a government-mandated quarantine. It is not known whether this test will be expanded.
The working from home phenomenon is certainly vexing the minds of LinkedIn users, with numerous posts dishing out advice on the best way to proceed.
However, industry commentator Mark Ritson, who describes himself as an ex-marketing professor gone rogue, wrote on LinkedIn: “I’m loving all the various gurus chiming in with advice on how to work from home. It’s not some new language or exotic sexual position that has to be mastered FFS. You get up and then don’t go to the office. Just get on with work. There – you’ve mastered it.
“Working in an office is the odd way to do things not working from home. We got used to the inherent oddness of offices but that does not make them any more sensible or justified. Leaving your house at 7am to travel to where everyone else is, then sitting in a blank office, looking at the screen of a device you brought with you from home, and then packing it up and taking it back home with you at 6pm – is a very strange way to get anything done.
“Waking up and saving three hours of travel, a shit lunch and distractions from colleagues each day and just getting on with your work is by far the optimum mode of action for most of us.
“And maybe many more of us are about to realise that the big question during the next few weeks won’t be – how do I work from home? It will be why did I ever do it any other way?”
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