Marketers Need To Redefine 'Workplace'

The challenges of measuring media use in the workplace are many and familiar.

Whereas significant strides continue to be made in measuring consumption in the ever-more-complex media landscape at home, the workplace presents additional challenges that have received proportionately less attention from the research industry and which are -- in many respects -- even more intractable.

As digital technology has become more commonplace, portable and connected, the boundaries between work and home are even more blurred. Similarly, these same technological developments have facilitated a blurring between our “work” behaviors and our “leisure” behaviors, regardless of location -- making it even more important that we understand that time when consumers are ostensibly “at work.”

Still, we persevere in our attempts to improve our understanding of work-related media use -- whether because we’re seeking to connect with the elusive senior management target or the buyers and influencers that so many B2B campaigns depend on reaching.



Convening the message to an audience in a work mindset (regardless of location) is likely to make them more receptive to a campaign.

When we discuss the matter of measuring workplace media use, we typically default to an image of the classic office environment with people using computers at their desks. The reality is that a huge number of people never work in such environments and yet still use (or are exposed to) media -- think retail, construction, transportation.

Even those who do qualify as slaves to the keyboard frequently do not spend all our working hours at the desk provided by our employers.  We are both location- and device-agnostic in pursuit of efficiency. We will use whatever device serves us best in a given situation or circumstance.

In the few weeks before starting to write this piece, I have worked in my employer’s office, at someone else’s office, my home, the train, the car, airports, planes, hotels, conferences, Starbucks, restaurants and bars, and probably a few places I can’t remember.

For however long or short a period of time, they became my “workplace,” and if we want to understand media use as it relates to the workday, we must measure it in its entirety.

Our notion of “workplace” should not be solely defined by the formal and principal location at which someone is employed (the primary location), but instead by wherever they happen to be when “working” (secondary location).  We would be better served by an activity-based rather than a location-based definition.

Consider, for example, the following findings from a recent analysis on this subject based on our USA TouchPoints data, which provides near-real time electronic measurement of consumer behavior. This analysis found:

  • 94% of working adults reported working outside of “my workplace” (primary work location) in an average week
  • Working adults worked in an average of 3.4 different locations during an average week (i.e., in secondary work locations) with 23% of working adults reporting more than five locations.
  • The most commonly cited secondary work locations were found to be car or other modes of transportation (70%), at home (70%) and someone else’s home (19%).
  • Media most commonly used in secondary work locations while working were radio (58%), mobile talk (45%) and Internet via computer (43%).
  • Patterns of working for white-collar and blue-collar workers seems remarkably similar in terms of locations -- the greatest difference appears to be that white-collar workers are less able to switch off from their work at home in the evenings.
  • Around 13% of adults who visited a quick-service restaurant reported working while they were there.
  • 11% of working adults reported working while at someone else’s workplace and 4% reported working while at a gym or health club.

The bulk of working time for the majority of people is spent within the primary location. Still, with approximately 16% of reported work-related activity taking place in secondary work locations, this represents a significant amount of time and associated media use.

We need to redefine our collective understanding and improve the measurement of the “workplace” -- wherever someone happens to be working. 

While this may seem daunting, perhaps the good news is that with the various efforts made by Nielsen, GfK MRI, comScore, Arbitron and various industry bodies, more data is being captured that covers these secondary work locations.

In the same way that technology has facilitated changes in how, where and when we work, it has also facilitated a massively increased availability of content across all platforms. Workers are consumers, too, able to interchange behaviors and mindsets at the touch of a button.

Whether switching from doing spreadsheets to checking cell phone messages, working on a Powerpoint while streaming my favorite music in a coffee shop, these activities form a contextual picture that marketers, media owners and agencies need to better inform decision-making and budget allocation.

Although the industry’s collective efforts in the workplace measurement space have undoubtedly moved us forward, it’s time to realign some of our reference points to better reflect the working realities of today and tomorrow by redefining just what we mean by “workplace.”

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