As organisations increasingly shift to remote working to prevent the increasing spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), a survey of more than 2,200 marketers conducted by Econsultancy and Marketing Week has revealed how marketers feel distributed working will affect their professional activities.
Marketers from North America and UK at brands with more than £50 million in annual revenue, who made up 22% of the survey’s respondents, are most concerned about how remote working will impact various forms of collaboration and team working.
While the vast majority of marketers surveyed (94% in the UK, and 85% in North America) believe it is “important” or “critical” to be able to adapt to the unfolding situation by shifting to online meetings and events, 71% of UK marketers and 67% of their North American peers say that creative collaboration suffers when workers don’t share a space.
And 82% of UK and 81% of North American brand-side marketers believe that in-person collaboration is “always going to be superior” to virtual meetings.
When it comes to the most significant challenges they face when carrying out work from home, more than half of marketers (52% in the UK and North America) find attending productive meetings challenging, while at least half (55% in the UK and 50% in North America) say the same about running productive meetings. However, 87% of UK marketers and 74% of North American marketers believe the idea that video meetings are somehow less efficient than regular conference calls is a myth.
Not all marketing work is highly collaborative, however, and there are plenty of potential upsides to working from home – such as increased concentration and efficiency. 84% of UK brand-side marketers and 69% of North American marketers on the brand side believe that remote work is “excellent” for concentration, while 63% of those in the UK and 53% of those in North America agreed that “I am more efficient when working from home than in the office.”
However, there is a downside to this as well: working from home can make the divide between work and leisure increasingly faint, and indeed, 63% of UK and 66% of North American respondents said that they work more hours when working from home. Thirty-three percent of UK respondents and 44% of North American respondents also agreed that remote work “inevitably” intrudes on their personal lives.
The long-term impact of remote working on marketers
While the impact of coronavirus on working practices has been swift and dramatic, do marketers believe that it will last – or are they expecting to go back to ‘business as usual’ in a few months’ time?
A majority of marketers believe that there will be some kind of lasting impact on working practices from the shift to distributed working that has resulted from the coronavirus outbreak; however, respondents vary as to how significant they believe this change will be. Sixty-two percent of UK marketers and 43% of North American marketers believe that “most ways of working will go back to the way they were, but there will be some changes.” However, 8% of UK marketers and 21% of US marketers believe that there will be “significant” long-term changes – or that the way they work will be “very different”. Roughly a quarter in the UK (26%) and a third (34%) in North America think that things will go back to the way they were entirely.
Even if the impact of the coronavirus is ‘only’ short term, however, organisations are still facing significant shifts to their ways of working in the immediate future. Until recently, only 26% of UK and 19% of North American brand-side marketers say that remote work was “very common” in their organisations, but 61% (UK) and 30% (N. America) say it will be very common over the next two quarters.
What, then, do marketers believe is the best way to remain competitive and prepare themselves for effective remote working? In order to remain competitive, 84% of UK brands and 87% of North American brands say that it is important or critical to be able to rapidly train their workforce to be effective at working remotely, while among senior brand-side marketers, 58% in the UK and 78% in North America believe that remote work is most effective with training in best practice.
Marketers are also looking to on-demand and remote training in general in order to remain competitive in the coming months: 83% of UK marketers, and 80% of North American marketers, say that it is important or critical to have the ability to upskill their workforce through virtual training. 83% of marketers in the UK, and 81% in North America, also believe that it will be important or critical to provide effective on-demand learning resources for remote workers.
Note: Due to a filtering error, a number of the figures in this article have been updated from initial publication. (17/03/20)