Internal Memo: Michael Roth Addresses Systemic Racism, Discusses Reopening Strategy

By Erik Oster Comment

In an internal memo sent across the holding company and obtained by AgencySpy, IPG CEO Michael Roth addressed the “the systemic racism and hate we’ve seen recently in the United States” in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

While the weekly memo deals primarily with IPG’s plans for reopening offices, Roth felt it “important to note how saddened” IPG was by recent events. He reminded employees of the importance of supporting each other and of the resources available to them, including counselors available through IPG’s Employee Assistance Program and TalkSpace, a United Healthcare service offering text or live video visits with therapists. Roth also cited the need for the holding company to “remain steadfast in our goal to keep equity and inclusion at the core of our DNA.”

Here is the section of the memo addressing issues of systemic racism:

However, it is important to note how saddened we are by the systemic racism and hate we’ve seen recently in the United States. While so many have performed acts of kindness and generosity, even heroism, during this pandemic, events of the last week, and ongoing racist and other bias incidents around the world unfortunately continue and even escalate. All the more reason why we need to continue our vigilance and to reach out to one another to ensure that our people are supported. Once again, we remind you of the resources available to you through IPG. We must remain steadfast in our goal to keep equity and inclusion at the core of our DNA, and our hearts go out to all of our people who are experiencing such pain as a result of these disturbing events.

Roth opened the memo by assuring employees that their health and safety will remain “driving factors” in how IPG agencies navigate a return to offices. Acknowledging that “the devastating impact of this disease is by no means over,” he explained that the “stark numbers” around Covid-19’s impact underscore the need for caution in reopening physical office locations.

While “a small number” of IPG offices in areas where infection rates have decreased have begun the process and others are preparing to do so, he said, other offices are “still weeks, if not months, away from doing so.”

“No matter what stage your local office is currently in, remember that as long as you can do your job remotely, you will not be required to return to the office until you are comfortable doing so,” he stressed.

Roth also noted that employees should expect a different experience when they do eventually head back to the office.

“Our focus will be on lowering density, which will, by necessity, change the feel of our offices so that we can ensure social distancing,” something that he said could be accomplished in several ways, including “staggered shifts,” with agency management teams ultimately communicating “local plans to ensure decreased density.”

Following local guidelines, Roth also said IPG would continue engaging with employees about their concerns and developing policies with those concerns in mind.

“As we move forward, we will reexamine what the purpose of an office is. Each IPG company will have specific requirements, but together, we will work on finding an optimal blend of physical and virtual space, so that each of us has the best opportunity to succeed at our jobs,” he said, adding that IPG would take into account what it has learned from the past three months as it moves forward.

Here is the memo in full:

As I hear from many of you, there are two big questions on most of your minds—when will we return to our offices, and what does our future look like? These are hard questions, but I’d like to provide some insight.

First, in terms of a return to our offices, health and safety were the top reasons for sending employees home to work as the COVID-19 pandemic began. And health and safety are the driving factors for our employees’ eventual return to the office. While many places around the world begin to re-open, which is a very positive sign, the devastating impact of this disease is by no means over, with more than 350,000 COVID-related deaths around the world, including more than 100,000 in the U.S alone. These stark numbers barely begin to convey the emotional impact upon the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives from this terrible illness, and our sympathies go out to them. The numbers also underscore why we must be so careful as we consider re-opening.

A small number of IPG workspaces in regional markets where infection rates have decreased have begun to re-open, and some are preparing to do so. Others are still weeks, if not months, away from doing so. No matter what stage your local office is in currently in, remember that as long as you can do your job remotely, you will not be required to return to the office until you are comfortable doing so.

Also, as your organization plans a transition back to the office, all of us should expect that things will be different when we do ultimately head back. Our focus will be on lowering density, which will, by necessity, change the feel of our offices so that we can ensure social distancing. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, like staggered shifts, and your management team will share your local plans to ensure decreased density.

We’ll follow local guidelines, of course, and we will continue to engage with our employees to understand their concerns. A few weeks ago, we asked you to consider a series of questions as we began to think collectively about returning to the office, including whether there are personal or household health concerns that affect your decision, plus what might be gained by being in the office as opposed to working remotely. We are looking at developing new policies company-wide to address as many of your concerns as we can.

As we move forward, we will reexamine what the purpose of an office is. Each IPG company will have specific requirements, but together, we will work on finding an optimal blend of physical and virtual space, so that each of us has the best opportunity to succeed at our jobs. For many, a physical office may provide a needed space to concentrate, or it may be needed to open the door to deeper, unexpected collaborations. Offices won’t go away for us—but our workspaces will take advantage of what we have learned over the last three months and position us for the future, so that we can once again outperform the industry as a recovery takes hold.

In the meantime, as the majority of us continue to work from home, we are producing great work that brings brand values to lifefocuses on sustainability, and emphasizes IPG’s purpose. We’re also winning new business—notably media agency UM, which won two major assignments this week that involved remote pitching.

Our strength and our ability to sustain our creativity, client partnership, and a continued emphasis on our values point to a bright future for us despite what is sure to be a difficult remainder of this year. It is this strength, combined, of course, with our careful management and a close eye on costs, plus the resilience of our people that gives me real hope for our future.

However, it is important to note how saddened we are by the systemic racism and hate we’ve seen recently in the United States. While so many have performed acts of kindness and generosity, even heroism, during this pandemic, events of the last week, and ongoing racist and other bias incidents around the world unfortunately continue and even escalate. All the more reason why we need to continue our vigilance and to reach out to one another to ensure that our people are supported. Once again, we remind you of the resources available to you through IPG. We must remain steadfast in our goal to keep equity and inclusion at the core of our DNA, and our hearts go out to all of our people who are experiencing such pain as a result of these disturbing events.

Looking toward a better future, and seeing all that you are doing under such difficult circumstances to make this happen, I want to thank each of you once again for your resilience, creativity and dedication.

Michael

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