Adapting to Modern Needs: Thomas Funk, Havas Germany

von India Fizer , AdForum

Havas Germany
Werbung/Full Service/ Integriert
Düsseldorf, Deutschland
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Thomas Funk
MD Europe, CEO Group Germany HAVAS

We had the opportunity to speak with Thomas Funk, Managing Director Europe and CEO Group Germany at Havas, on hybrid working as a tool that allows for a more equalized way of working and increased efficiency.


Over the past year, work environments have had to change drastically. How has your agency taken employee feedback, coupled with what’s appropriate for the company to create a work plan going forward?

Especially during the uncertain phases of the Corona pandemic, we tried to be very close to our employees by measuring the general pulse of the agency on a regular basis, via daily updates with team leads, anonymous surveys, as well as talking to people personally. Simultaneously, we had an intensive exchange within our network on safety measurements to maintain maximum control with minimal risks in order to ensure a safe working environment for all.

At times, where socially and legally appropriate, we directly asked our people how they’d feel about returning to the office and thereby respected everyone’s decision as to what they felt was best for them. Those, who wanted to work from the office were free to do so, under given, valid safety measurements we implemented, and those who felt more comfortable or secure working from home could do so as well. Additionally, we offered vaccinations and steady guidance through the changing regulations, to make sure we supported everyone during these times in the best way possible.


How has the changing work landscape affected the way pitches and campaign briefs are approached and conceptualized?

Overall, the reduced amount of time spent together led to more efficiency in terms of collaboration. We have switched over to smaller teams, quicker turn arounds and a more effective usage of digital tools. This change already started for us at the beginning of the first lockdown, when we found ourselves in a situation where we had to implement a client project for an international telecommunications provider across 4 countries borders, completely remotely – which worked great but asked for new thinking and methods.  


In what ways has this impacted the work-life balance of your employees and what steps have been taken to mitigate that?

I firmly believe that this new flexibility of designing one’s working hours has impacted employees the most. There’s no one-size-fits-all anymore, which has been replaced by individualized offerings and solutions to organize one’s working life today. This is especially the case for parents, who were confronted with extra burdens like homeschooling in the past months, and so we saw it as our responsibility to support our employees by finding individual solutions for specific needs. Of course, a certain range of flexibility was granted to every employee, which led to a more equalized way of working, where breaks for housework were taken during the day, but e-mails and work tasks were done at later times.

Accordingly, we have developed our plans for how we want to work together in a joint, living process – what works for us? What specifics do we need to consider as a creative shop? One of our learnings was that due to the nature of our industry, we want face-to-face exchanges. Second, learning that it doesn't necessarily have to be on a strictly daily basis. This resulted in a hybrid model of 3-2, which we have been living since our return to the office at the beginning of July. It proved to work for everyone and combines the advantages of both worlds.


Given that each work environment can look a bit differently, what has helped in creating a cohesive working relationship with clients?

When it comes to client relationships, we have experienced two divergent poles: On the one hand, we observed that client relationships have become more closeable than ever before, mostly through the glimpse into one’s private environment and the shared challenging circumstances, which has resulted in a different, more personal exchange and getting to know each other more privately. On the other hand, we also experienced more distant relationships, where some clients consciously and rigorously separated their business from their private life, resulting in a loss of proximity through missing physical presence as well as reduced contact and communication.


What changes that have been made over the past year do you see sticking around for years to come?

In the first instance, it’s this new hybrid way of working, which combines presence and remote working to meet modern needs. In second place, I believe that a changing meeting culture will remain. As a result of working remotely, we, for instance, defined and implemented efficiency guidelines, which resulted in a new meeting culture and teams working with more agility and digitally than ever before.

Ultimately, while it would be desirable, it remains to be seen if the shared social consciousness will endure: Will we continue to look out for and take care of each other? We certainly will find out in the coming months.