“Balance Is Part of Most People’s Consciousness Now”
Ralph Hekamt, Country Manager DACH region at Peach, reflects on long-lasting change and identifies flexibility as the key ingredient of the future.
14 November 2022
As we draw towards the end of 2022, we come to realise that life as we knew it before the Covid-19 crisis, will not be making a return. And that’s okay. A good thing, even.
Here in Munich, we’ve just celebrated Oktoberfest, and naturally, cases of the virus are up again. But compared to even just a year ago, the fear around it has dissolved dramatically. The panic has subsided, our immunity is up, and we know our responsibilities. Covid-19 is no longer an unknown enemy to be afraid of.
Back when this all started in 2020, I remember Peach anticipating the advertising industry’s next move. Because of course, everything we do is connected to what happens in adland. And along with most of the world, the industry was unprepared. Campaigns were at a halt, traffic was plummeting. Fear was the ruling emotion and it caused many to come to a standstill - to freeze before we had to choose fight or flight.
Then there was proactivity - a flurry of movement as offices were closed, including all 34 of ours, and workers sent home. Out of this, a new way of working emerged. We became digital nomads.
What started with the home office grew more flexible, and we had people working from all different places across the world. With geographical barriers broken, we saw untapped opportunities to operate globally and recruit talent from all walks of life.
Peach is a global company, and although we have a central customer success hub in London, we learned that people don't have to physically sit in London to work with us. It’s opened up exciting new doors and processes for progress.
On an individual level, there was an unexpected benefit - all the time and money saved on commuting into work every day had a positive impact on our close relationships. As a father, I cherished the added time with my wife and children - it has made a big difference to family life. For most, work is no longer an all-consuming entity, and this has made more space for other things we value.
Flexibility has led to more freedom. I see that as the biggest learning we can take away from this crisis.
If you look at those who were most flexible and adaptable to the times, they are the ones who withstood the most difficult periods. Just one example of this is the investment that retail and ecommerce brands such as Amazon Prime and Deliveroo put into their campaigns, while many others saw this as a time to halt advertising.
Identifying the changing times and customer needs, those that moved quickest, reaped the most rewards while others were too fearful to say the wrong thing.
Flexibility is the future, in my eyes. The advertising industry is well known for being rooted to tradition but if this experience doesn’t shake things up, what will? There are some who will be reminiscent of the ‘old days’, asking workers to come back in and get back to ‘normal’. But we must move away from the old way of thinking. The world has changed and people have changed with it. To turn it back to zero or to turn it back to where it was before would be a mistake.
Flexibility is a positive thing and that’s what we all now expect. So why go back?
Of course, I’m not saying that we should never meet in person or value an office environment. There are many benefits to an office too. Especially in places such as creative agencies where ideas need to be thrown around the room and spontaneous discussion breeds the unexpected.
In fact, after two years of personal contact being virtually non-existent, I think people value relationships and real life moments even more. People need to be in touch with others to make a real connection and to understand each other better.
But the point is, be flexible. Encourage both. Allow hybrid working to reap the benefits of both worlds for your business and your team.
Balance is part of most people’s consciousness now. I personally have heard less complaints about overworking or feeling fatigued since we’ve introduced a more flexible approach at Peach. The team feels healthier, happier and stronger.
So, whether you’re in the office, at home, on a tropical island or sail boat, enjoy work, enjoy life and live flexibly.