People have been trying to plan for life post-pandemic, but now company leaders wonder if we are even there yet, in light of the COVID-19 Delta variant and the recent surge in cases.

Leaders from Gannett, Graham Media Group and The E.W. Scripps Co. recently shared how they have approached return-to-office and revenue effects since the COVID-19 pandemic set off massive shifts in the industry.

In a conversation during LMA’s Digital Revenue Summit, the leaders emphasized communication with employees to navigate ever-changing official recommendations and ensure smooth transitions from remote-work setups.

Gannett: Redesigning the workplace

Samantha Howland

“We are in the depths of defining our future workplace model,” said Samantha Howland, chief people officer, Gannett. The pandemic led to a majority of employees working remotely, except for about 7,000 in manufacturing and distribution. Now the company aims to shift the workforce to a flexible operating model from the current work-from-home or voluntary-only office use.

Howland said in a survey with more than 5,000 responses, 94% of employees said they desire a remote or hybrid work model, and 54% said flexible work location is a top element for the future workplace. Respondents’ top reason for returning to the office was community: socialization, relationship building, and meeting with clients and colleagues.

Gannett designed principles for its future workplace with a goal to be culturally additive. Howland said it is not just about returning to the office but how the company thinks about organizing to do work.

“Now we want to bring people together purposefully. We want to use our space appropriately. We want to demonstrate trust of our employees in their continued productivity and performance regardless of where they work,” she said.

The team is preparing to share details of the new workplace design with staff in the coming weeks, with a goal to launch the new model by October, pending more pandemic-related delays.

Graham Media Group: Delta pivots masking rules

Julie Dreixler

At Graham Media Group, Julie Dreixler, chief human resources officer, said each of the seven television stations has managed its own plan for returning to work.

“We were originally operating on the trust factor — wearing a mask if you were unvaccinated and if you were vaccinated, you didn’t have to wear a mask,” she said. “Because of the rise in cases that we’re seeing in Florida and in Texas, and we also had a significant outbreak in one of our Florida stations, that made us reevaluate our protocols in place and all our plans. The stations made the decision to go back and require masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.”

Graham Media Group also started the process of determining how much of the workforce is vaccinated, asking employees to show their local HR representative proof of vaccination. So far, at least 86% of the workforce, or about 850 employees, have provided the information.

“For the most part we’ve had a lot of people who were very happy to show proof of vaccination, and we said, ‘Look, if you can’t show proof we’re going to consider you unvaccinated and you have to wear a mask,’” she said. “That’s how we are dealing with this delta pivot: getting a handle on who’s vaccinated, and that helps us in our scheduling and how we’re going to move forward.”

The E.W. Scripps Co.: Adapting to find revenue in a pandemic

Tom Sly

Tom Sly, vice president of revenue, National Media, said The E.W. Scripps Co. has been following the customer to focus on new opportunities. Year to date, more than 1,000 new businesses have signed on to advertise with Scripps in 42 markets, he said.

The company recognized emerging businesses and industry categories eager to get out their messages related to COVID-19 regulations, strategies and realities — state and local health departments regarding screenings and vaccines; services such as medical, automotive and home; and local business reopenings. The company also saw tremendous success with programmatic ads early in the pandemic, Sly said, and established a very high fill rate against traffic surges 200-300 times greater than average audience and impressions.

“We saw early on that the content we were creating was extremely important to our audience and the community,” he said. “People were clamoring for local information and wanted to know what’s happening in their county, or in their state, or quite frankly their own backyards as it related to COVID counts and hospitalizations.”

Now that mobile and website traffic has diminished, Sly said he and other peers in the industry are continuing to adapt and drive value from the smaller audiences.

As far as policies around travel and remote workforce, Sly said unvaccinated employees must mask when working in the studios.Often those precautions are already expected from local clients and businesses.

“People are getting the message, finally, that we have to work at this together,” he said. “Ultimately, businesses will have to close again if we can’t shut this thing down, and we all have to be a part of that message, informing our communities, and hopefully guiding them to make the right decisions.”

6 post-pandemic factors

Ryan Browning

Moderator Ryan Browning, senior director client capabilities and innovation, WPP, shared six factors companies must consider and coordinate when approaching post-pandemic realites.

  • COVID-19, including infection and vaccination rates
  • Country and county, and what is legally mandated regarding masks, distancing, etc.
  • Company/OpCos, the culture toward safety measures in an environment
  • Campus, or the facilities in which the company operates
  • Career, such as which jobs are the post appropriate to be remote or in-office based on deliverables and outcomes related to the role.
  • Client/Customer, which may have different standards and operations compared to the company

Digital Revenue Summit session: “Post-pandemic” realities

Watch on demand | Passcode: #L1D15uY