The Marketing Industry Needs Free-range People, Not Battery Farms


We’ve not yet reached a global consensus on post-pandemic ways of working, with employers running a gamut from fully remote to pre-pandemic ‘normalcy.’ Jessica Hargreaves, co-chief exec of agency group PrettyGreen, argues strongly in favor of the former, after her organization announced its ‘free-range’ policy this week.

Everything changed when the first lockdown hit and we sent our people home. Never did one of our core values ​​mean more: ‘we trust you to deliver.’ The thing that had never happened before happened. It was the moment when all agency leaders had to trust their team to deliver and let go of presenteeism as a form of control.


Our industry can no longer battery farm talent, argues PrettyGreen’s Jessica Hargreaves

Our people delivered, big style. Parents worked with their kids at home. People worked from shared homes with little space to call their own. Junior members of staff, who were still learning the ropes, climbed the ladder. We delivered award-winning campaigns. Won new business. Things had changed forever. We couldn’t go back to how things were.

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Our agency vision is to be less ordinary through every element of our business, from culture to internal initiatives to brand campaigns. So we applied this approach to the way we work.

Going free-range

We wanted to listen and understand. We ran extensive research including trials, staff surveys and C-suite one-to-ones; we spoke to our clients.

We discovered that our people deliver their best work, and are at their happiest, when they are ‘free-range’ and can work in a way that suits their individual needs.

However, we also found that we missed and needed creative collaboration. Some of our people wanted a more structured working environment away from their home where they felt part of something brilliant.

We knew we had to think smart to ensure our team was happier, fitter and more efficient. We needed to enable them to play hard and work hard. We needed to be free-range hens, not battery hens.

No one wanted to come into the office more than two days a week, but they did want time together. The perfect solution was to find a space where we could all be there, if we choose, for two days a week. So we searched for a progressive solution. We wanted to revive the 80s trend in timeshare holidays – but for the office environment.

This is where Space Three:Two comes in. A recruitment agency called Pod was using a lovely, relaxed warehouse space in Fergusson House on London’s City Road, but it was empty half the time. We swiped right and moved in for two days a week, creating a collaborative workspace where the entire agency can get together if they choose.

Team matters

As part of our Work from Anywhere policy, we encourage our team to live and work globally, which includes attracting talent from outside the London bubble. We also know that some people would need meeting rooms or office space for clients, teams or solo work. The solution for both challenges was to invest in WeWork passes globally.

To ensure we communicate effectively and are as efficient as possible, we’re investing in technology and training. Nobody wants additional pings on more apps. This is not about reinventing the wheel with complex tech solutions that require a big change of mindset. Our focus is on using the technology we are all familiar with to the best of its ability.

The savings we’ve made on having a full-time physical space have been invested back into employee pay bands and benefits. We bolstered the package, so each employee receives up to £2,000 per year to cover home broadband, mobiles, home office environment (over and above the necessary tech, which is all provided), free Pret breakfast, Vitality healthcare, gym, wellbeing and experiences.

We’ve also officially adopted a four-and-a-half-day working week to enable our people to make their week work and play. We’re also researching the four-day working week trial.

We wanted to ensure that our working practices were inclusive, worked for both our employees and clients and were also reflective of our agency culture and values. The new model reflects our ‘less ordinary’ vision and embeds our company values ​​of ‘everyone is creative,’ ‘smart and curious’ and ‘we trust you to deliver.’ The team is really excited about this progressive solution that focuses on their needs and allows them to work how they choose to deliver less ordinary campaigns.

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