AGENCY and Why the Office Matters

Group of people sitting around an office meeting table

There’s much written and even more spoken, debated, and predicted on the topic of future of work….more specifically: HOW MUCH TIME WILL WE SPEND IN THE OFFICE. To be fair, this is not all about Pandemic disruption and aftermath. Both technology and work-style were already shifting pre-pandemic. From the growing popularity of co-working spaces, to social/work clubs (like Chief, Luminary and Soho House) to third space cafes where laptops are as commonplace as the lattes. Each of these popular work space trends stood in contrast to the growing Tech campuses, that were built as one-stop life locations where the goal seemed to be frictionless, countless hours spent on campus consuming the Kool-Aid while getting fed free food and snacks in exchange for giving the very best of yourself during your waking hours.

At the heart of this work contrast was/is a sense of empowerment. A feeling that I get to choose where I work, the hours I work, and the environment that works for me. Versus the conforming to a rigid set of expectations on hours, locations, and a definition of how we work set by bosses who for the most part were subscribing to the same routine.

Companies, in an effort to compete and match this new style preference, began to shift space to reflect more of this open floor plan, social vibe, and chill feeling by knocking down walls, crushing the cubicle, and bringing in furniture that resembles the living room more than an office. Even leaders were moving out of offices into the center of the floor plan in a show of solidarity and non-hierarchical coolness.

Right as the 2020s ushered in this office redo, the Pandemic forced us all into our bedrooms, our makeshift home/apartment offices, and made our roommates, our spouse, and our kids our colleagues! Then comes the media propaganda machine, declaring this the new future of work. Work from anywhere, the headlines declare! We can now be as productive from Bermuda as we were on Madison Avenue. Or better yet, waking up and jumping from bed to desk and working 8-10 hours straight on back to back zoom calls. Is this living the new dream job because you no longer have to commute, or deal with physical contact with any of your actual colleagues?

Time spent working from the agency

For those of us that get to work for Agencies! …usually a name given for a company that deals in Creativity applied to clients in a vast array of sectors, and of varying types of size and specialisms, we are now facing, how much time should actually be spent working from the agency. 

I have always cherished an Agency career. The atmosphere of creativity, the energy of deadlines, the collaboration, the client partnership, and the ultimate producing business growth and talent development. Not a single thing on this list gets better in isolation, on a zoom call, from my home, or even from Bermuda. Is it possible to accomplish and even exceed goals working remote (rhetorical Q1), we proved that it is! But, were/are there mighty trade-offs and consequences working fully remote (rhetorical Q2), there were and there are. 

This is not about the old guard being out of touch with what GenZ wants from work. In fact, based on loads of research, it’s the older generations that are more interested in work-from-home time, due to life stages and demands. I am actually not quite sure why the media machine is pushing the 'remote work' is 'the future of work' propaganda. Maybe you can enlighten me on that.

The meaning of Agency

This is where I return to the idea of AGENCY, and all of the meaning this word holds. Not just agency as a place or type of business, but agency as the feeling of control over actions and their consequences. At least in our industry, of Creative Transformation (WPP VMLY&R VMLY&R COMMERCE) of business, of culture, of personal potential, I rally all of us to consider Agency! To trust in individuals to create the hybrid schedules that produce results. To put faith in leaders to create the conditions for people to thrive, flourish, and grow (not just fulfill a role and collect a pay check.) To consider the consequences (not just for yourself but for your teams, for you colleagues, for your clients ....of working remote every day. People crave belonging and feeling necessary! These are big responsibilities for leaders and organizations and best accomplished when there is a healthy balance of weekly in-person time. Time to return to the SuperPower of Agency and return to the Agency. …at minimum 2-3 days a week! See you there!

Beth Ann Kaminkow is Global CEO at VMLY&R COMMERCE