GroupM CEO Christian Juhl announced in an internal memo that employees of the WPP media agency network will continue to work in a “managed remote working capacity” through the end of the year, with offices opening in a limited capacity in October.
Juhl opened the memo by acknowledging that “Covid-19 will be a prolonged issue here in the United States,” particularly given the uncertainty and inconsistencies in school openings. Looking back to the stated policy GroupM shared in May regarding “managed remote working” through Labor Day, he also shared the findings of a June survey of employees globally regarding readiness to return to a physical office environment.
A little over one in 10 (11.7%) of employees felt ready to return to the office at the time of the survey, while under 5% (4.7%) felt that their role necessitated such an environment. A reliance on public transportation and school closures were among employees biggest concerns regarding an eventual return to the office.
Juhl cited the “dynamic school situation” and “reliance on public transportation in some cities” in his decision to continue a “managed remote working” environment through the end of the year.
He also recognized that some employees did feel a need to return to the office. As such, GroupM offices in the U.S. will open in early October, with 30% maximum capacity. Such openings will be dependent on public health mandates and office attendance will be completely voluntary, he clarified, while adding that some agencies may choose to keep offices closed past October.
Here’s the memo in full:
This has been quite a challenging year. We have adapted to brand-new ways of working and collaborating with each other and our clients, as well as helping our children adjust to home schooling and managing through various home and family situations. Unfortunately it’s clear that Covid-19 will be a prolonged issue here in the United States, resulting in a lot of uncertainty and inconsistency around how schools will be operating, a variable that impacts many of us.
We shared in late May that a significant majority of our people in the U.S. would continue to work in a managed remote working capacity until at least Labor Day, regardless of when and how restrictions are lifted by state and local governments. In June, we surveyed our teams globally on their ability and readiness to return to an office environment, and our U.S. employees responded as follows:
• 11.7% feel ready to return to an office environment
• 4.7% feel they need to be in the office to do their job, given their role
• Public transit in major urban markets is a primary reason for not being ready to return
• Childcare and school closures were cited as barriers to return by many working parents
As we get closer to Labor Day, it’s important to share where we are today and provide guidance on how we move forward. Given the dynamic school situation and reliance on public transportation in some cities, we’ve decided to continue to work in a managed remote working capacity through the end of the year. We hope this flexibility gives you the ability to plan as you need to take care of yourselves and your families during this time.
We also want to have an option for those colleagues who would like to go into an office, so starting in early October we plan to open our offices across the U.S. at a significantly reduced density (30% maximum capacity). Coming into the office will continue to be voluntary and openings will be heavily dependent on public health mandates. In an effort to reopen the buildings in the safest way possible, our people, facilities, and real estate teams are working diligently to develop clear operations plans focused on health and safety and are reviewing technology solutions for use in managing data, event tracking, and information sharing requirements.
Some agencies and cities may choose to be more restrictive, and keep their offices closed beyond October. It is extremely likely that processes and procedures will be different per location, and we will need to work together to ensure a safe and healthy environment for everyone.
It has been inspiring to see the great sense of compassion and support we have shown for one another over the past few months. I appreciate your continued connection and dedication to each other and our clients. Thank you all for your leadership and collaboration during what is undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods we’ve experienced at GroupM.