Remote Work Isn’t New, But It Brings a New Challenge for Marketers

Are you reading this at work? Where is that?

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

If McKinsey’s research is correct, over half of you are in a place other than an office building. This whole remote work thing is in a real tizzy.

CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose discusses the status and implications of remote work in marketing. Watch it below, or keep reading for the highlights:

Remote work continues to grab headlines. Most recently, Zoom – the tech provider that proliferated remote work so much that it became a verb – made headlines (sometimes misleading) for mandating workers return to its physical office.

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

But back to 2023. This week, the multinational marketing agency Publicis also asked its U.S. 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 – that request is similar to those made by other global agencies, Omnicom and WPP.

@Zoom, @Omnicom, and @WPP all want workers to return to the office at least three days a week via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Remote work trend isn’t new

No doubt, the pandemic created a structural disruption in the work-from-home trend. But the movement has grown for at least two decades. Seven years ago, this U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics graph showed the number of people performing 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 some work from home jumped from 19% to 24%, according to the @BLS_gov via @Robert_Rose @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

That 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, the research tracked how much work could be done remotely, not how much work should or wanted to be done remotely,” he says.

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

“The research measured a different thing when the prevailing sentiment among young workers was that they should not do work from home,” Robert says.

Hybrid work presents different difficulty

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

“In a world where one-third of the team may not be in the office on the same day, the office is just another remote work location. Everybody is still in online meetings,” Robert says.

The solution can be simple – get your team to agree on which days they’ll be in the office. But you should know the issue of remote work isn’t settled, and the long-term ramifications remain to be seen.

In hybrid work environments, get employees to work on the same days each week, advises @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

“What I do know is whether the company is remote or in the office, it requires a whole lot more leadership communication and team building. That managerial skill will rise in importance in the months and years to come,” Robert says.

What do you think? Where are you and your team in 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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