We Will Not Be a "Zoom" Company: Agathe Bousquet, Publicis Groupe

Without a doubt, not seeing each other every day and getting together was the biggest challenge.

Publicis Groupe
Publicidade/serviço completo/integração
Paris, França
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Since employees have transitioned to working from home, how has the agency been helping them to adapt?

Our priority was to keep our people and talents connected. And therefore, giving them the means, the tools, and the ability to be able to work from home. We equipped all of our employees with laptops, and for the creatives, we had the equipment directly delivered to them. The managers set up weekly catchups with their teams, and I organized plenary sessions to share information and organize Q&A sessions. 

Each employee had easy access to a referent to reach out to if they needed help to work from home. We also created and handed out a guide with some best practices to help them because, for the large majority, this was something they had not experienced before. 

The well-being of our employees was at the center of our attention. For example: we organized live work out sessions on our YouTube channel with Karate champion Gwendoline Philippe, who Publicis Sport supports in preparation for the 2021 Olympics.

 

How are the attitudes of employees evolving as the crisis continues?

Without surprise, all of the teams remain very committed to our clients. This was true during the first lockdown, even though we learned to work remotely, and therefore we created new working habits. 

These challenging times also encouraged new initiatives from all our employees, beyond working and going on with day to day business. Particularly regarding internal communications. We have seen the creation of music concerts, zen sessions, weekly podcasts on various topics, and even shared musical playlists to help everyone throughout their day. Many initiatives also emerged to benefit our clients, like the publication of economic and social studies and surveys on how the French were coping and what kind of changes this period was triggering. Today, we publish about six studies per week that our clients can learn from and hopefully enjoy. 

 

What has been the most challenging part of working from home for team members?

Without a doubt, not seeing each other every day and getting together was the biggest challenge. We work in an industry where ideas come from informal discussions, shared “live moments”. This is true for everyone, but it is even more difficult for creatives. They challenge themselves constantly, agree to disagree, and build on a comment or even a simple reaction that someone can have concerning an idea or a campaign. For our young talents, I think this is also very painful. Some have joined early this year and have barely been able to work in our offices. It’s hard for them to meet the rest of the teams, hard for them to blend in, hard to understand how our agencies work. 

 

Have there been any changes made within your agency to ease the process?

Our primary focus was to share as much information as much as possible with everyone. It was our way to connect and keep in contact. What was a game-changer was the launch of our AI platform Marcel. Marcel was only supposed to be launched the second semester, but we accelerated its launch and deployment worldwide. Our talents could not only easily keep in touch with one another, but it was a simple and natural way for them to review the latest news and information, studies from all over the world, best cases, the most creative campaigns, and enjoy training sessions on different topics. Marcel also enabled us to facilitate talent mobility by promoting various job offerings worldwide or allowing people to participate in global pitches directly from their homes. Today, all of our major Groupe events happen on Marcel and are accessible to all of our employees. 

 

Has anything been done to try and preserve the office culture? How has the reception been internally?

Marcel has allowed us to spread, maintain, and even celebrate our Groupe values even more than an office culture. Six months after the launch, we already have 75% of our employees in France connected to Marcel.

 

Are you planning to return to the office? Is there a plan to make some of the initiatives started during the pandemic?

Arthur Sadoun has been very clear on this: we will not be a "Zoom" company, and I am delighted to hear that. Our job is made up of human exchanges, relationships, and creativity. We need to be together for this to happen. So, yes, absolutely, we will return to our agencies but with new ways of working. A lot of things have happened in the past months. We have learned a lot as well. We need to keep the best and bring it to life in our future ways of working. We are currently working on how our organizations could evolve to work remotely and work from the agency coexist. To do that, we have to rethink our working methods and conditions globally, not only in terms of management and work rhythms but also in terms of workspace. We’re conducting workshops on all of these themes and preparing ourselves for our “Future of Work” 

 

What are some common mistakes you’ve seen from agencies transitioning to working from home? Do you have any tips?

The main mistake is linked to the speed of how fast we had to change our working methods. Especially during the first lockdown, I think many of us have suffered from a hyper or constant connection—day in, day out, seven days a week. However, we reacted quickly to sharing and promoting the best WFH practices for all our employees and managers. This helped everyone understand how crucial it was to take a few breaks during the day and enjoy some time off. The second mistake is the exact contrary: the loss of connection with people whose jobs and skills isolate them more from the company. In that case, it was the manager’s responsibility to make sure that no one was forgotten or left aside. In conclusion, I would say that we all learned how to work apart, but still together.