Episode 315 Segment Transcript

This is the transcript of my discussion with my Beyond Social Media Show co-host about the future of remote working.

BL Ochman: Another sign of the times is this Ad Age article by Jeanine Poggi. The San Francisco ad agency Traction broke its lease last week because they said they don’t need it. They don’t need the space anymore. They’re going to work from home indefinitely for the foreseeable future.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a horrific impact on the advertising industry. And so they’re closing their office and they’re shifting to everybody being at home.

Information Age Professionals Have Little Need For Office Space

BL Ochman: And the co-founder of the company is Adam Kleinberg. He said “we decided we just don’t need” the office space and that the agency did not miss a beat. They got six new clients in 2020.

Digital Tools Make Work From Home Possible

BL Ochman: And he said they have tools that they’re using. One of them is Miro, a virtual whiteboard, that lets the staff collaborate and brainstorm in real time.

Coronavirus Accelerating Change In Ad Industry

BL Ochman: You know, given the changes in the industry, the agency had transitioned into more of a consulting format before COVID. He says that’s working for them; it’s working for their clients. And we’re going to see a lot more of this, a lot more people not going back.

Young People Will Suffer Most

BL Ochman: I think it’s going to have the biggest impact on people starting their careers; coming out of school, starting their careers, trying to work their way into the field and not having that sort of social thing. And that mentoring thing. And the coffee and lunch and all of that.

Virtual cocktails are nice, but they’re not the same as going out for beer. And so there will be changes but you know, better and better technology is going to make working from home better and better.

How Will People Learn To Be Professional?

David Erickson: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot to talk about here. But it’s like what you said about the people entering the workforce; you learn to be a professional by being in the environment of being a professional, right?

BL Ochman: Absolutely.

David Erickson: And I don’t think that–it’s not something I thought about until you until you brought it up–but I don’t know how you replace that with a virtual environment. I don’t know how that works. I don’t think it works as well, is my guess.

BL Ochman: It can’t, you know, it just can’t. I mean, that part of it is so important. And you kind of learn how people speak diplomatically. You kind of learn what’s allowed and what’s not. You learn from the people. You want to hang around in any part of your life with the people who are what you want to be. When you do that in a work environment, it’s how you grow.

But there’s also another element. You live in a suburb. I live in a small New York apartment. But a lot of people live in tiny studios or they live with roommates or they have kids and you know, it’s hard. So people are going to have to find ways to deal with that. And nonetheless, the idea of commuting, the idea of being exposed to illness and death is not going to make people rush back into office space. Especially now that they’re talking about air conditioning spreading the virus.

Are Skyscrapers Safe?

David Erickson: Yeah, well, I just started doing face- to-face meetings with a limited number of clients and in specific conditions. But I would not go to meet somebody in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul, in a high rise, in a skyscraper, an enclosed environment where there’s a ton of people sitting with their air–

BL Ochman: With the windows hermetically sealed, yeah. No. I’m not gonna do it.

Pandemic Accelerates Digital Transformation

David Erickson: I spoke with a woman at a global financial technology company who has been working from home exclusively since this began. And she said the leadership of the company was stunned at how easily they made the transition to a completely digital workforce.

Now that’s a profession, it’s an industry that can do that. Because they, one, they have the technical expertise to do it. But also it’s an Information Age company. It’s not manufacturing, it’s not, you know–

BL Ochman: Well, exactly. And my sister is an economist and she works for a large brokerage house and they are working remotely because they can, because everybody basically is able to communicate the way we’re doing it right now. And they’re all you know, pretty much head down doing their specific area of–

But yeah, if you’re doing something where you’re making something, that makes it a lot more difficult. So–

More Accountability Due To Remote Working?

David Erickson: So the other thing that story brought up was…I’ve been saying for years that once a company gets like 150 people or more, you need to split it, cut it in half. So that there’s only a…the fewer amount of people, the more accountability there is in an organization. I’ve worked in huge corporations, and I’ve worked in small agencies, and there are a hell of a lot of places for people to hide–

BL Ochman: Absolutely.

David Erickson: –in huge organizations. One of the effects might be is that there may be more accountability now that more people are working isolated from their colleagues where they know The Politics of How to Get Away With Shit. Or not be accountable to stuff.

BL Ochman: That’s definitely a part of it. And my sister was saying that at the beginning, somebody would call you every day and say, what are you going to be doing today? But now everybody’s doing their thing and it’s working.

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