• Monday, Jul. 13, 2020
Sound Lounge study: Ad industry hesitant to return to office following pandemic shutdown
Sound Lounge COO and partner Marshall Grupp
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While thousands of offices have shut down as a result of government-mandated closures in response to the pandemic, a new study from Sound Lounge, an artist-owned postproduction facility in Manhattan, found that many professionals in advertising will remain hesitant to return to the workplace, even after government restrictions lifted. When asked about several factors to consider when going back into the workplace, 81% of respondents felt negatively about returning to work in person, whether that be at their own office or attending sessions at post facilities. Results further indicate that a significant majority of the advertising community surveyed still feel strongly about waiting until later this year, or until 2021, to return to the office.

“Considering the severity of the pandemic and the way it has altered our understanding of shared spaces, the concern we see in these results is not entirely surprising,” said Marshall Grupp, COO and Partner at Sound Lounge. “Regardless of any employee’s experience working from home, the resulting data shows that health and safety is the top priority for most advertising professionals.”

The unpredictability of the pandemic
This new data reflects that the majority of respondents agree that the opportunity to return to the office is subject to change depending on how the pandemic progresses throughout the fall. Many respondents indicated that while they generally prefer to supervise postproduction sessions in person and record talent in the studio, they recognize that this option may not make sense for a long time. Fifty-seven percent indicated that they would prefer to continue supervising sessions remotely even if in-person supervising was available. A vast majority of respondents also indicated that when considering returning, they believed their companies would welcome the idea of remaining remote, for weeks and even months beyond the lifting of government-mandated restrictions.

Returing to the office: when and how?
Many advertising professionals indicated varying impressions of when it would be appropriate to fully return to the office. Very few individuals indicated that they were at all comfortable with the thought of returning in the coming weeks/months:

  • 35.5%: Very uncomfortable
  • 23.4%: Somewhat uncomfortable
  • 22.4%: Medium
  • 10.3%: Somewhat comfortable
  • 8.4%: Very comfortable

While some indicated that they could return to supervised sessions as early as July, many were certain that they’d remain supervising remotely until fall or even next year:

  • 13.5%: July
  • 13.5%: August
  • 29.8%: September
  • 13.5%: October
  • 3.8%: November
  • 1.9%: December
  • 22.1%: Not until 2021

Respondents were also asked how they thought their companies would approach sending employees back into the office. Only 2% of respondents indicated that they believed all staff would return:

  • 1.9%: All staff will return to office 
  • 15%: Majority of staff will return to office
  • 45.8%: Decreased capacity, hours staggering
  • 43%: Minimizing our footprint and remaining remote

Additionally, the majority of respondents indicated that if they return to supervising sessions in person, they plan to provide their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but many individuals will still expect their company and post facilities to have PPE available. Alternatively, a couple respondents expressed that they “will not feel comfortable going back until PPE is no longer necessary” and that employees should “stay remote until it is safe to go back without masks”.

“It’s been great to see how post facilities have presented remote solves for sessions, but there really is no substitute for being there in person,” mentioned a respondent of the survey. “Things move faster, and it’s easier to be creative and make decisions when we aren’t all in different locations trying to piece something together.”

This survey was conducted over a period of two weeks, with 107 respondents. The survey was open to all advertising industry professionals and received participation from ad agencies, brands, editorials, production companies, audio studios, music houses and VFX/color/finishing studios. The top three respondents fields were: 45 percent from ad agencies, 31 percent from editorial and 11 percent from production. Seventy-four percent self-identified as senior or executive level employees, while 22 percent were mid-level and four percent were entry-level. Eighty-two percent are working remotely full-time, and 99 percent are based in New York City. Responses were completely anonymous.

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