Will PR and marketing personnel soon return to their offices? Should they? And do they want to?

Surveys reveal that most – but not all – PR and marketing staff members believe they’re more productive working from home and prefer to continue WFH arrangements.

Most recently, a Chartered Institute of Marketing survey (CIM) showed that 55% of marketers say they will request to continue working remotely. Only one in five say they either won’t request to continue working from home or say it’s not possible because of their job. Significantly more workers under 25 (32%) won’t request flexible work, than those over 55 (9%).

“Marketing professionals are obviously enjoying the benefits of working at home, which is why so many hope to continue working remotely once offices are fully open again,” states CIM Chief Executive Chris Daly.

Young Workers Like Company Offices

Young marketing personnel pose special concerns. Many appreciate the sociability of office life and don’t always have the comfortable home working set-ups enjoyed by their older colleagues.

“Employers will need to carefully balance the need for a positive office environment for young people with a desire among older workers to spend less time in the office,” Daly cautions.

Despite WFH advantages, about half of the marketers polled worry about employee isolation (52%) and blurring boundaries (45%) between home and work.

Abandoning Habit & Convention

Surveys by Ryan Holmes, chairman and co-founder of Hootsuite, also showed that most employees prefer working from home. Holmes polled surveyed his LinkedIn followers, numbering more than 1.7 million, every few weeks since May. The results were eye-opening, he says.

Companies had clung to the in-person office model out of habit and convention, even though new technologies had opened viable alternatives, he says. Employees were ready for change. They adjusted to WFH quickly and relatively smoothly, despite some technology missteps.

Most (70%) said they’d be open to working from home permanently; 30% said no. Most said they’re more productive at home and save substantial time by not commuting – sometimes more than two hours a day. However, 42% said they missed work-related socializing.

Are workers tiring of working from home? In October, an overwhelming 79% said they’d like to go to the office occasionally, either once or twice a month or once or twice a week.

Forming Opposing Groups

Arik Hanson, principal of Hanson Communications, predicts workers will split into two distinct camps: those wishing to always work from home and those who return to the office full time. Generally, the WFH group will be rank and file, and the office group will be managers. Those working from home may be passed over for promotions.

“Out of sight, out of mind. I’ve seen it happen in the past. And, we’re going to see it happen again,” Hanson says.

The CIM survey supports that viewpoint. Many marketers (41%) say flexible WFH arrangements prior to the pandemic held them back in their careers. This figure is significantly higher among female marketers (50%) than men (29%).

Are You Really More Productive at Home?

Most employees participating in surveys say they’re more productive at home. But is that true? Are they giving honest answers?

“Some people are good at working independently–most are not,” Hanson says. “Of course, people are going to say ‘I’m a great boss!’ when asked if they’re more productive at home.”

His survey responses “probably skew a little optimistically,” Holmes concedes. “As remote work continues, it’s going to be incumbent on employers to provide structure and help team members up-level their self-management skills.”

While video conferencing apps have proven effective, companies will now need to invest in productivity tools and home office stipends for employee equipment, such office chairs, computer hardware and apps.

Many digital marketing agencies use time-tracking software, such as HiveDesk, Asana, Trello and Basecamp, to track how much time workers spend on the job and monitor their progress. Some tools can provide automatic screenshots as a proof of work done. Some companies measure hours spent on tasks; others focus on results completed. Other companies abhor the surveillance software, preferring to trust employees.

Bottom Line: The future of working from home remains uncertain. Most PR and marketing personnel want to work from home indefinitely, but a significant number are eager to return to company offices. PR and marketing agencies and corporate communications departments may struggle to balance those preferences.

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