The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Publicis Groupe Remote Working Agencies

Working holidays are the latest agency staff perk. Are they too good to be true?

Author

By Sam Bradley, Journalist

October 6, 2022 | 8 min read

Several agencies now offer staff the chance to work abroad alone, pushing the definition of remote work even further. We find out what happens when such an idealistic offer meets the realities of modern agency life.

Vacation suitcase on orange background

Several agencies offer staff the chance to work abroad remotely. How have these schemes actually worked in practice? / Unsplash

Digital nomadism was once reserved for the global elite. But a growing number of agencies have made ’work from anywhere’ policies part of their offer to employees, enabling staff to work not just remotely from home but from foreign climes.

Catriona Gallagher exchanged London for Mexico City for six weeks in May and June. The trip, a long-term ambition hatched during the hemmed-in days of lockdown, saw her split her time between work and vacation.

”I got to know a new culture, visit pyramids on weekends (which isn’t something you get to do every day), and brushed up on a foreign language in between work hours,” the Digitas strategy director tells The Drum.

Gallagher’s experience was organized through Publicis Groupe’s (Digitas’ parent company) Work Your World initiative. It’s not the only agency group to offer international remote working options.

British agency St Luke’s, for example, allows its staff to work fully remotely for up to two weeks a year. At Connelly Partners, staff can work from its offices in Boston, Dublin or Vancouver for up to three months a year.

Tax laws limit how long agencies can allow permanent staff to work away, but in most cases the initiatives represent a much more hands-off approach to hybrid or remote working than competitors. That’s no coincidence; each agency’s policy was unveiled in the wake of the pandemic as agencies sought to offer staff more reasons to stick, rather than twist and join the competition.

Groupe experiment

Though it wasn’t the first of these initiatives to be set up, Publicis Groupe’s Work Your World is undoubtedly the largest of the schemes so far.

Launched last December, the French holding company offered 79,000 staff across its agency networks the chance to work from any one of its other offices around the globe for up to six weeks. Staff working in Paris could take their work to Phnom Penh for a month and a half, working during the days and exploring in the evenings.

It also promised to help workers find suitable accommodation and flights, and make connections at the agency offices they’d be boarding with – and provided an exclusive home exchange scheme dubbed Home Swap Home. Nine months on from its launch, how has the initiative actually functioned?

In Gallagher’s case, the Mexico trip gave her ”a lease of energy,” enabling her to return to London both rested and inspired. ”I came back to the UK feeling energized and with my desire to live abroad out of my system,” she says.

So far, the initiative has been popular among her colleagues. Over 2,000 Publicis staffers have organized a trip through Work Your World and, according to a company spokesperson, over 10,000 are planning future moves.

Unexpected directions

Some staffers have used the initiative in ways the company didn’t anticipate. Ian Loon, chief executive officer of media and digital for Publicis in Asia Pacific, told The Drum many ex-pat colleagues initially used the policy to extend trips to their home countries after the months and years away imposed by Covid.

”I think most of the people who’ve used Work Your World used it to head home,” explains Loon, who is based in Singapore.

”It’s not the ideal way the Groupe wants us to use it ... they want us to head somewhere else and have a new experience. But we’ve all missed home over the last two and a half years, so they want to head back, spend more time over there and continue working.”

He also suggested that staffing pressures across Publicis agencies meant some employees felt dissuaded from using the initiative.

”If they’re going to be working for like 14-15 hours, then maybe they’re going to wait for things to get a little better and for their bosses to hire more people first.”

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing

Daily

Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week

Wednesday

See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

Staff traveling around the world to experience other cultures won’t want to spend their time abroad working late, he notes. It’s best for them to ”work a normal 8-10 hour day and then you’ve got the [rest] of your hours to go out and explore.”

As travel restrictions around the world subside over the coming months (Japan is still closed to unchaperoned travelers at the time of writing, for example, while the EU and US require proof of vaccination to enter), other Publicis executives expect more staff to use Work Your World.

Loon’s Singapore colleague Martin Davie, who is head of international business at Publicis Media, predicts ”it’ll ramp up starting next year, when people have tested the waters of traveling again.

”Things are easier now but it’s still not as smooth as it used to be; a lot of people are just doing their first trip and they’ll want it to be a proper switch-off holiday.”

Reflecting on her time in Mexico, Gallagher suggests the scheme could provide the best of both worlds.

”Finishing the day in a foreign city brings a whole new perspective to work, with new sources of inspiration at every corner. And end-of-day margaritas and a walk around the local park in Mexico City never went amiss.”

Publicis Groupe Remote Working Agencies

More from Publicis Groupe

View all

Trending

Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +