IPG CEO Michael Roth addressed the question of returning to the office in an internal memo sent to holding company employees last Friday.
Roth took a slightly different tone than Omnicom CEO John Wren did in a similar note on Omnicom’s plans to reopen, with the IPG CEO saying that the holding company “will not rush back to our offices.”
Roth opened the memo by commending IPG employees on the work they have delivered for clients during the crisis, including McCann Belgrade’s work subtly transforming medical professionals into superheroes, before asking them to take the weekend to “reflect and think about what coming back to the office can look like,” a topic he says seems to be top of mind.
“I want to be clear: IPG and our people do not need to and will not rush back to our offices,” he explained. “We have proven without a doubt that we can accomplish the fundamentals of our work responsibilities and service our clients with 95% of us working from home.”
As such, he said, IPG can learn from how other industries, including retail, manufacturing and hospitality, handle the return to the physical workplace before making that leap.
Calling the process “a marathon, not a sprint,” he acknowledged that many are excited to return to a traditional workplace, while there is also a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety about such a return. Roth explained that IPG’s Covid-19 steering committee is researching and planning for what a return to the office environment might look like. He added that such a return would be “guided by local government and health officials,” and assured employees it would “be driven with the health and safety of our people absolutely top of mind.”
Roth added that the successful reopening of some offices in Asia made clear the need to reduce the number of employees in offices at any one time in order to ensure sufficient space to practice social distancing. IPG agency leaders have thus been tasked with “beginning to think about what types of employees are critical for an in-office environment, how we can stagger teams and who can just as effectively work remotely,” he said.
At the same time, Roth acknowledged that it’s “crucial for each of us to consider our own feelings on this topic” and for everyone to discuss their own situation with a manager, while navigating realities around the relative safety of commuting, childcare needs and whether returning to the office will increase productivity.
“It has become increasingly clear that it is more complex to reopen our offices than it was to close them,” he said.
Roth assured employees that once given the go-ahead to return to offices, IPG will do so “methodically, it will look different, and it will only happen when we are certain that we can effectively protect our people,” while adding that the ad industry has “the luxury of not having to return to the office immediately to be efficient and productive.”
Roth concluded the memo by thanking employees for all that they continue to do in “unprecedented times.”
Here’s the memo in full:
The work our people continue to produce for our clients inspires us, makes us smile, and achieves business goals. I hope all of us take pride in our company’s ability to deliver such great work during such extraordinary times.
This weekend I would like us all to reflect and think about what coming back to the office can look like. This topic seems to be at the top of every news story and everyone’s mind, and I want to be clear: IPG and our people do not need to and will not rush back to our offices. We have proven without a doubt that we can accomplish the fundamentals of our work responsibilities and service our clients with 95% of us working from home. Which means we can learn from watching how other industries such as retail, manufacturing and hospitality return physically to the workplace ahead of us.
As we said at the start of this crisis, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Much is being said about a possible “end of the beginning” of the pandemic, and many of us are excited to return to our more traditional workspaces. However, there is also a fair amount of uncertainty and anxiety accompanying thoughts of a return. IPG’s COVID-19 steering committee continues to research and plan what a return to working in the office might look like. While the timing of such a return will be guided by local government and health officials, I can assure you that it will, first and foremost, be driven with the health and safety of our people absolutely top of mind.
One aspect is certain from the successful reopening of some of our Asian operations: we need to focus on reducing the number of employees in the workplace at any one time, as sufficient space for social distancing will be needed. We have tasked our leaders with beginning to think about what types of employees are critical for an in-office environment, how we can stagger teams, and who can just as effectively work remotely. It’s also crucial for each of us to consider our own feelings on this topic, so that when we do talk with a manager, we have a clear idea of what makes the most sense for our unique situation. Some issues to consider: will being in the office empower me to do my job better? How so? Will I feel safe commuting to work? Do I have childcare or family care or health issues that are factors in my ability to come back to the office?
It has become increasingly clear that it is more complex to reopen our offices than it was to close them.
Many of us miss the camaraderie of working together in a shared space. I certainly do. But rest assured, when we once again have the green light to share a space with each other, it will be done methodically, it will look different, and it will only happen when we are certain that we can effectively protect our people. Our industry has the luxury of not having to return to the office immediately to be efficient and productive. And for that, we are thankful.
I hope that you are able to enjoy some downtime and connect with family and friends this weekend—bearing in mind social distance and wearing a mask, of course. Again, I thank you for all that you continue to do so well during these unprecedented times.