Edelman U.S. President Lisa Ross announced yesterday a return to a hybrid workplace for Edelman team members on March 14. Senior team members (EVP and up) are asked to return to workplace on March 1 for three days a week. This is consistent with our other operations that are coming back, as public health authorities authorize in-office work.
I am aware of the arguments made to the contrary. Edelman has made an incredible recovery from a low point in June 2020 while the team is working from home. Our staff has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. Our people have recaptured the time spent commuting, spent more time with loved ones, were able to take their kids to school and be there when they got off the bus. These are things that we cannot lose or underestimate the importance of as we begin hybrid work. Remote working also forced us to engage with colleagues and work across offices, geographies, and time zones we most likely wouldn’t have otherwise.
We did some of the best work in the agency’s history including our first Cannes Grand Prix and deeply meaningful ideas such as creating a new jingle for the Good Humor Ice Cream truck with the help of RZA. We are a client focused organization with the best talent from any geography or practice available to help on assignments.
The agony of the pandemic was tolerable because family was there with hugs. Now it is time to go back, not to life as it was but to life as it should be in the future. We have learned a lot, about priorities, about how to push our clients to action and the urgency of quality information in a world divided on fundamental issues. We have waited for Omicron to subside, for the mask mandates to end, for a sense of safety on public transit and a re-opening of schools.
We go back to share knowledge. I have a lot to teach my colleagues about how to pitch a client, how to fix a broken relationship, what to do in a crisis. But I also have so much to learn from my younger associates about their passions and fears, about their reading habits and their reactions to current events.
We look forward to strengthening the bond amongst our teams. We are at our best when our ideas combine brand and reputation, are based in data, are articulated both in short form and more detailed writing. We are still learning to make creative a partner from the beginning, to listen to planners, to move from control to cooperation.
We go back to meet new colleagues. In the last year alone we have hired over 800 people, many of whom have never stepped foot in an Edelman office and have only seen their colleagues from the chest up through a computer screen.
We go back to continue the strengthening of client relationships. We had a spectacular brainstorm with a client yesterday, with the six of us sitting in a hotel lobby riffing on ideas that flowed, with one of us finishing the thought of the other. We have been living on connections forged two years ago or in the artifice of the virtual world. We must see the clients because trust is fortified in person.
We go back to be valuable constituents of our cities and to be part of the recovery of the country. San Francisco has seen 2,000 restaurants close in the past two years. Small business is down to 48 percent of the jobs in the nation, a post-war low.
We look forward to continue bringing out the best in each other. I am inspired by brilliant advice given in a stressful moment. I am moved by ideas that lead to action. We learn through observation and engagement.
There will be a period of readjustment, as if we have returned from the space station. We will have to conquer our fears, our PTSD, our need to get back on the horse after a two-year disruption. We will learn that office time is for connection, home is for email and writing among other things. We will get our rhythm on travel, with fewer internal meetings and prioritizing face time with clients. As we nurture the future and new ways of working, flexibility will be core to our culture and our hybrid approach.
I’ve spent this past week in the Bay Area and it has proven beyond doubt that our team and our clients are ready to take the plunge. Our greatest joy will be our mutual accomplishment of a workplace of the future.
Richard Edelman is CEO.