‘Remote Flexibility Opens Up the Doors’; Media Leaders Talk About What’s Next

“People under 30, they have very specific ideas about where they want to work,” Kevin Turpin, president of the National Journal, told us at BIMS, pointing to the challenges of recruitment and retention. Development of skills is crucial. Can that be done remotely? Other media leaders highlight the added diversity that can be achieved with the bigger pool that remote work offers. One thing is for sure: There’s no one right answer.

Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, told me at the end of last year that one of the advantages of their commitment to remote work since the pandemic has been an easier path to staff diversity.

“Robust, remote work has given us greater capabilities to recruit and retain diverse people,” Fink said. “If you look at the data and research, very often it is talented, diverse people who don’t have the family wealth to support certain situations that companies have for a long time required.

“And so, we’re still focused first and foremost in hiring the most talented people, but having the ability to be more flexible allows us to hire the most talented people who may not have been able to meet our in-office requirements in the past. From gender to age to ethnicity, across the spectrum there’s a wide range of diverse factors. And the remote flexibility opens up the doors for a lot of people.”

At our BIMS event earlier this year, Elizabeth Green, CEO of Brief Media, a publisher in the veterinary space, spoke how being able to work remotely has given them a great opportunity to hire people beyond their Tulsa environs. I got the same quote from Anne Holland, head of MJBiz, in relation to their Colorado home office after extolling the virtues of people coming to the office just a couple years earlier.

I didn’t get a chance to ask Fink or Green what their offices look like now. There’s a terrific, about-us video that Money-Media has had on their homepage for a while, showing cool brick walls, collaborative meetings and engaging camaraderie. Something has to give in this new equation.

Like the offices-to-condos trend that we’re seeing now and will probably continue to see in the near future, organizations are looking at their spaces with a new lens.

“We keep rethinking, ‘how do we use our physical space? What moments do we need to be together?’” Gemma Postlethwaite, CEO of Arizent, said during our BIMS CEO panel earlier this year. “So we replaced ‘office’ with ‘studio’ as a destination for clients to make meaningful connections. What are those meaningful connections? We’re challenging team leaders on how we are going to develop our talent”—especially when it comes to strategic planning and responding to ChatGPT.

“Let’s get everyone on to talk about it,” she continued. “Hybrid doesn’t work in my opinion; it goes back to that [idea of] second-class citizen,” where there might be advantages for those in the office. ”What are the meaningful ways to bring people together, to create innovation.”

While she’s “amazed by how much culture can be built around Zoom,” like Turpin, Postlethwaite does worry about the learning curves for her younger staff people. “How can they learn about the people they’re working with?”

As I hear from and talk to more and more people in the industry about how we work, the best creation of culture and diversity remains up for grabs. Do we need to see each other multiple times a week? Can Zoom or Teams meet the growing demands that organizations have for meaningful connections?

“We went fully remote during Covid, and we’re not going back,” GovExec CEO Tim Hartman said. “Gemma’s ‘studio’ is a great idea.” Sure enough, when I interviewed one of GovExec’s rising stars, Travis Wolfe—he won one of our 2022 IMPACT awards for the diversity work he’s done there—he said, “My second bedroom is now my office, and I’ve come to love it dearly. I didn’t realize until after we stopped [commuting] how much more I get done. I can never go back to it.”

“We have [staff] in 40 states,” Endeavor Business Media CEO Chris Ferrell said. “We were a third remote before the pandemic, and now we’re 75%. We’re subleasing space and downsizing as leases come up. It’s changed the way I work.” He has two chairs—one gives him access to remote meetings. That’s now the one he sits in most of the day. Being remote “lets me participate in a lot more meetings; we have a Weekly Coffee With Chris for 10 or 12 employees who I usually don’t get to talk to and hear their concerns, what’s going well. We’re not going back.”

“We’re in the office one day a week,” said Tim Andrews, CEO of Advertising Specialty Institute. “I’m more interested right now in how we can better leverage Zoom with our customers? Incorporating it with a customer-service perspective.”

Makes sense.

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