Why Mediabrands’ Morris is offering free lunch and unlimited time off
The Media Leader interview
IPG Mediabrands has just opened a shiny and modern London office, but UK & Ireland chief Richard Morris has clear ideas for how to attract talent in a hot job market.
How best to attract employees back to commuting after nearly two years of mostly working from home? And what can you offer (besides bigger salaries) to specialist talent in a hot job market where multiple business are competing for the same skills?
These are the questions facing media agencies like Initiative and UM, part of IPG Mediabrands, which has just opened a new office at The Bailey in the City of London.
As the work-from-home mandate lifts, Mediabrands is among many companies in the media industry that are trying to entice employees back to the office, as well as lure new talent into roles created by the post-lockdown recovery.
In response to this, Mediabrands has introduced new policies like free lunches for its returning staff along with uncapped holiday and an official 50/50 hybrid working approach.
Richard Morris, CEO UK & Ireland Mediabrands, tells Mediatel News that the company wanted to “bring back joy” to working.
“There’s been a hidden mental cost of working remotely and we are social by design, and that lack of interaction has taken some richness away,” he says. “This was trying to bring that back and doing it in a way that I think was a benefit to people’s pockets but also to get people back together.”
There is such a thing as a free lunch
Morris (pictured, above) said a decision to make lunch free for everyone that comes into the office was made towards the end of last year.
“I was thinking about as we move and transition into this new hybrid world, how do we give people an incentive and something to look forward to and then it was Ottolenghi quote that says nothing brings joy and people together as much as food,” he commented.
The London and Peterborough offices will make food onsite while the Leeds and Dublin will enlist the help of local restaurants and cafés.
The London office (pictured, below) has also been “completely reconfigured” to bring in new tech, meeting rooms to facilitate different styles of working as well as “a little of home” into the office.
Morris added: “It’s trying to make the office that place of joy and part of someone’s hybrid lifestyle and give people something to look forward to with an economic benefit when they come and work with us.”
50-50 hybrid model
As of Monday 31 January, Mediabrands will bring in a “half and half” hybrid model where employees are asked come into the office for the equivalent of 10 out of every 20 days, in “whatever shape” that looks like for them.
Morris says this is “not like it’s back to work” but that this approach improves collaboration, connection with colleagues, the creative process and motivation.
He comments: “I think when you are about 1,100 people, when you look at all those people, there’s going to be so many different points of view and I think this is a really personal judgement, so whatever your circumstances of viewpoint and whether you’re extroverted or introverted or whatever it might be, that’s going to drive your your desire for your future working models.”
There will also be two weeks every quarter that employees can work from a different domestic location without affecting that hybrid model.
No upper limit cap for paid leave
“Flexi leave” where this is no upper limit cap for the amount of paid leave employees can take was introduced as of 1 January 2022.
Morris said: “We felt that with a hybrid agile working model, it was appropriate for people to have more control of their time.”
He compared it to the four-day working week as a move towards counting productivity as what matters and “pure outcome”.
Mediabrands will trial it this year with the intention of continuing it for many years to come.
He added: “It’s more based on trust, but of course, you have a responsibility to your colleague, your clients and for the agency, but in the context of that we didn’t want to restrict people.”
Senior leadership opens up a whole day to chat with interested applicants
Mediabrands senior leadership team has cleared their calendar on Thursday 3 February to talk privately and confidentially to people about their careers and vacancies available at the company.
Morris said: “We’d love to hire the best talent in the industry, but it’s slightly more altruistic than that. We just wanted to connect with those people so they can understand our culture and we can know a bit about them as a proactive, longer-term move to understanding and knowing where the challenge is, and whether or not they’re a good fit with Mediabrands.”