The COVID-19 pandemic has made remote work the new normal for many, with some people having relocated during the past year and a half.
Boutique brand experience agency Episode Four is responding to this new reality by putting a twist on the hybrid work model.
Starting in October, employees at Episode Four will continue to work remotely… most of the time. Each month, however, the agency’s 15 full-time employees will gather in person in an interesting city for three days and two nights. Clients or agency partners who are based in that market will also be invited to join.
The first meet-up will kick off in Greenport, NY next month, followed by Washington D.C. in November, and then Hudson, NY, Los Angeles, CA, Nashville, TN and San Francisco, CA in the months to follow.
The goal of the program is to maintain in-person connection while learning more about the places employees have chosen to move to, said Mark Himmelsbach, founding partners of Episode Four.
“We just want to see from our different team members’ eyes what makes their town special,” he said.
Trips will include a mix of work-related meetings and sightseeing activities to understand what makes the city unique and special. Episode Four employees living in the destination city will host the group, scheduling activities and meet-ups such as museums or strategic landmarks. Employees will be required to follow local city ordinances regarding mask mandates.
“We have already had people ask to stay late or come early or visit friends,” Himmelsbach said.
Costs of every trip will be covered by the agency and travel will continue as long as it’s safe to do so. Episode Four will periodically survey employees about their comfort with traveling. All employees at the agency are voluntarily vaccinated.
Employee hosts in a visiting city will also be invited to stay in the hotel booked for the rest of the team at no cost. Employees can choose to extend their time in the city, but will have to cover their own expenses beyond airfare.
Episode Four, which has worked with clients including Charles Schwab, JP Morgan Chase and Newsela, previously worked out of an office in Chelsea, New York, where it has since ended its lease.
“We love the idea that people are curious about each other's lives, which Zoom really opened up,” Himmelsbach said. “This will get people focused on things that aren't about being away from each other, but things that we can do together.”
He noted that expenses for traveling will be about the same as leasing the office space.