Remote working is nothing new, but it presents a new challenge for marketers

Are you reading it at work? Where?

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

If McKinsey’s research is correct, more than half of you are somewhere other than an office building. The whole remote work thing is really rough.

CMI Chief Strategy Consultant Robert Rose discusses the state and implications of remote working in marketing. Watch it below or read on for the highlights:

Remote working continues to grab the headlines. More recently, Zoom, the tech vendor that popularized remote work so much it became a verb, made headlines (sometimes misleadingly) for forcing workers to return to its physical office.

Zoom wants employees within a 50-mile radius to come into the office at least two days a week. That’s a big difference from related headlines proclaiming that Zoom’s move indicates the work-from-home trend is over. In 2019, had you learned that Zoom was allowing local employees to work 60% of the week from home, you might have concluded that the work-from-home trend was accelerating.

But let’s go back to 2023. This week, the marketing multinational Publicis also asked its US employees to return to the office. According to Adweek, the agency wants employees to spend time in the office at least three days a week, a similar request made by other global agencies, Omnicom and WPP.

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

The remote working trend is not new

Without a doubt, the pandemic has created a structural disruption in the work-from-home trend. But the movement has been growing for at least two decades. Seven years ago, this chart from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the number of people who did at least some of their work at home grew from 19% in 2006 to 24% in 2015.

Between 2006 and 2016, the number of people doing at least one job from home increased from 19% to 24%, according to @BLS_gov via @Robert_Rose @CMICContent. Click to tweet

The recent McKinsey study found that 58% of employees can work from home: 35% can do it full time while 23% can opt for part time.

But those numbers are more nuanced, as Robert shares. “Ten years ago, research tracked how much I work I could be done remotely, not how much work Should OR wanted to be done remotely,” he says.

In 2016, the study referred to the trend of work-life balance. Information workers in the digital age might take work home and spend nights or weekends doing it in addition to normal office hours.

“The research measured a different thing when the prevailing sentiment among young workers was that they shouldn’t have to work from home,” Robert says.

Hybrid work presents several difficulties

Now, working remotely is desirable for many creative and information service workers, and the shift to flexible hybrid working hours presents an unintended challenge.

“In a world where a third of your team might not be in the office on the same day, the office is just another remote workplace. Everyone is still having online meetings,” says Robert.

The solution can be simple: ask your team to agree on the days they will be in the office. But you should know that the remote work issue has not been resolved and the long-term consequences remain to be seen.

In hybrid workplaces, have employees work the same days every week, advises @Robert_Rose via @CMICContent. Click to tweet

“What I do know is whether the business is remote or in the office, it requires much more leadership communication and team building. This management skill will grow in importance in the months and years to come,” says Robert.

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

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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