Remote work is nothing new, but it brings a new challenge for marketers

Are you reading this at work? Where is that?

At home? In an office? In a cafe? Or walk through the airport for six months on the way to an Airbnb?

If McKinsey’s research is correct, more than half of them are located somewhere other than an office building. This whole remote work thing is really in turmoil.

Robert Rose, CMI’s Chief Strategy Advisor, discusses the status and impact of remote work in marketing. Watch it below or read on for the highlights:

Remote work continues to make headlines. Most recently, Zoom — the tech provider that made remote work so widespread it became a verb — made headlines (sometimes misleadingly) for forcing its employees to return to their physical offices.

Zoom wants employees within a 50-mile radius to be in the office at least two days a week. That’s a stark contrast to the related headlines, which proclaim that Zoom’s move suggests the work-from-home trend is over. If you’d learned in 2019 that Zoom was allowing onsite employees to work 60% of their week from home, you might have concluded that the work-from-home trend was accelerating.

But back to 2023. This week, multinational marketing agency Publicis also urged its US employees to return to the office. According to Adweek, the agency wants its employees to be in the office at least three days a week – a requirement similar to that of other global agencies, Omnicom and WPP.

@Zoom, @Omnicom and @WPP all via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent want workers to return to the office at least three days a week. Click to tweet

The remote working trend is not new

There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused a structural disruption to the working from home trend. But the movement has been growing for at least two decades. Seven years ago, this chart from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the number of people doing at least some of their work from home rose from 19% in 2006 to 24% in 2015.

According to @BLS_gov via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent, between 2006 and 2016 the number of people working at least part of the time from home increased from 19% to 24%. Click to tweet

The recent McKinsey study found that 58% of workers can work from home – 35% can do it full-time, while 23% can choose to work part-time.

But these numbers are more nuanced, as Robert says. “Ten years ago, research tracked how much work that was could can be done remotely, not how much work should or wanted done remotely,” he says.

In 2016, the study looked at the trend towards work-life balance. Information workers in the digital age could take their work home and spend it on nights or weekends in addition to their normal office hours.

“The research found something different when the prevailing view among young workers was that they shouldn’t work from home,” says Robert.

Hybrid work has different difficulties

Remote working is now desirable for many workers in the information and creative services sectors, and the shift to flexible, hybrid work schedules presents an unintended challenge.

“In a world where potentially a third of the team is away from the office on the same day, the office is just another remote work location. “Everyone is still in online meetings,” says Robert.

The solution can be simple: let your team agree on which days they will be in the office. However, you should know that the problem of remote work is not yet solved and the long-term effects remain to be seen.

In hybrid work environments, ensure employees work the same days each week, advises @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click to tweet

“What I do know is that regardless of whether it is a remote company or an office-based company, the company requires a lot more leadership communication and team building. These leadership qualities will become increasingly important in the coming months and years,” says Robert.

What do you think? Where do you and your team stand on the journey to remote work? Good, bad, functional or broken? Please share it in the comments.

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Cover photo by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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