Connelly Partners’ President and Copywriter Steve Connelly believes that working from home kills agency culture. However, he also tells employees, "If you don’t have a life outside of the office, you are useless to me."
These are two of Connelly’s "strands of DNA," which he tells Campaign US is a "blend of pragmatism and some basic human tribal beliefs I have that help us yield good work."
He explained that no one can be creative 24 or 12 hours a day and he doesn’t expect staffers to work very long hours, but he does want them to be focused when they’re in the office.
"I have kids in their 20s and I certainly hear a lot about liberal work from home policies and I think that’s fine if you're into productivity and staying connected, but if your focus and priority is culture, which mine is, then you have to be in the office, you have to talk to people and feel the energy around you," he said.
But this doesn’t mean the agency doesn’t believe in work-life balance. Connelly said that if a staffer needs to work from home because he or she needs a mental health day or has a sick child, he’s totally fine with that. Plus, the shop offers unlimited vacation days.
"What you need to do to take time to refresh and stay charged and bring new experiences into the office you should do, but I’m not saying that I’ll pay for three days and then have you work from home on the fourth and fifth day. That’s not culturally beneficial," he said.
Mothers who want or need to work from home are on a case-by-case basis. Connelly said he wants to make sure he stays connected with working moms and gets them back in the workplace, but he says if you’re in a leadership position, "You can’t lead by phone - you need to lead by example."
He said he’d rather have a working mother tap into a truncated schedule in which she comes in earlier and leaves earlier than have her work from home.
Connelly also strongly believes in having a life outside of the office. "The more successful you become in this business, the more you’re taken away from what made you successful - the everyday things and people," he said.
He added:" If you’re job is to tell so a wide range of people, you better be able to observe a wide range of lives. Go learn, live and find, and sometimes you suck up experiences without even knowing it."
The agency’s culture is "familial" and "imperfect like most families, but with a lot of honest inside," according to Connelly. The shop was built around a living room, kitchen table and bar because those rooms are often where the best conversations take place. "It’s a very educated treehouse," said Connelly.
For agencies looking to figure out or build their own cultures, Connelly has some advice: "Please understand that culture is organic If you're going to commit to culture, understand that you are the dirt, not the seed or plant, and your job is to provide the best growing environment."