Agencies want their people back in the office — at least, part time.
Havas is the first major holding company to put a fine point on that return, requiring all of its U.S. employees to be back in to the office on a hybrid model starting November 1, Campaign US can confirm.
Employees in the region will be mandated to work from the office three days a week and allowed to work remotely two days per week. The agency will determine in-office days according to each division, with leadership across the U.S. receiving training on how to optimize hybrid work and foster a welcoming environment.
November 1 was an ideal date for Havas to kickstart hybrid work after watching the successful reopening of businesses, restaurants, schools, sporting events and festivals throughout the U.S. this fall, Stephanie Nerlich, CEO of Havas Creative Network, North America, told Campaign US in an email.
Havas implemented the hybrid model after the agency evaluated the different needs and appetites among clients and its employees.
“We learned a tremendous amount through the pandemic work experience, including that remote work has great value,” Nerlich said. “We also learned that in our business, purely remote work has real costs and that it doesn’t work for all people, all things and all the time.”
“Hybrid work allows us to capitalize on all that we’ve learned in a best-of-both approach and has a long list of proven benefits – from improved employee experience and mental wellbeing to optimized collaboration and productivity,” she continued.
Havas plans to adjust its pilot hybrid model as needed — for example, tracking the development of the Delta variant — and will adhere to government regulations in every region.
Havas will require proof of vaccination in order for employees to enter its U.S. offices. The agency has achieved more than a 95% vaccination rate among its U.S. organization.
In July, Nerlich told Campaign US that Havas planned to move to a hybrid model beginning on September 13, a date that got pushed back in light of the Delta variant suge in late summer. The agency was also exploring initiatives such as an enhanced employee assistance program, emergency childcare initiatives, after-hours communications etiquette, food services and technology enhancements to encourage people to return.
“There will always be exceptions, and some roles may be offered in the future fully remote, but we believe in large measure we are better together,” Nerlich said at the time. “In fact, despite all the press to the contrary, we see getting the offices open as key to retention. Although we’ve proven we can deliver great creativity apart; magic happens when we are together. And we know any animosity created by the trappings of non-stop Zoom rooms will seamlessly fall away when we are back together.”
Despite leadership being eager for staff to come back, many holding companies have delayed their office returns in light of the Delta variant, which caused a spike in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. over the summer. In August, Publicis Groupe pushed back discussion of office reopening plans until Q4. That same month, IPG mandated that U.S. employees that return to the office voluntarily get vaccinated.
Also in August, WPP CEO Mark Read said in an interview with Campaign that while he is “keen to get people back into the office...the Delta variant may delay that by a month or two from September to October.”
Similarly, on its Q2 earnings call, Omnicom CEO John Wren said, “Overall, we believe a return to an office-centric culture will enable us to invent, collaborate and win together to offer the best service for clients. [The return] will be grounded in safety and flexibility, and local leaders will determine what combination of office and remote work is most effective for their teams.”
COVID cases are trending downwards, with daily infections declining by more than 15,000 in the last week. However, experts are concerned about the virus as much of the U.S. heads into colder winter months.
Still, it’s unclear how many employees actually want to return to the office or are comfortable doing so in a hybrid capacity.