As the pandemic recedes in many areas agencies are developing custom hybrid work models and starting next month, New York-based boutique agency Episode Four is taking a slightly different tack—incorporating a three-day field trip into its monthly planning.
For the most part staffers continue to work remotely. However, for three days each month, employees will get together to meet in person in a different city around the U.S. Clients and/or agency partners who are based in that market will be invited, too.
For October, the meeting will take place in Greenport, NY. In November, it will be Washington, DC and in December Hudson, NY has been selected. Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco will follow in January, February and March, respectively.
If one of Episode Four's employees lives in the destination city, he/she will act as host. All expenses will be paid by Episode Four. All employees have been fully vaccinated and local city ordinances will be followed with regard to mask mandates.
Asked to explain the idea, Mark Himmelsbach, founding partner Episode Four responded that “while we have tried to maintain a good zoom culture, over the course of the pandemic we heard from our team that spending time together in person was key to both their happiness and productivity. So instead of making people move back to NYC to gather in an office a few days a week, we decided to elevate our in-person gatherings and make them something everyone can look forward to. The three days will be a mix of spending time together talking about work and the agency, meeting with clients, prospects and partners, and definitely having some fun meals and activities along the way.”
It's no secret that many people are still reluctant to travel, stay in hotels and eat at restaurants given concerns that the pandemic is still problematic in some regions. Asked if everybody as the agency was on board with the plan, Himmelsbach replied, “Absolutely. We have involved our people every step of the way.”
A few months ago when the idea was first proposed, he added, “we asked everyone on our team if they were comfortable with it. To a person they said yes. It helps that our entire team is vaccinated.”
But the plan is also flexible, said Himmelsbach, noting that “we have already shifted our plans as to which cities we visit and in what order so that we can make sure to stay in places where cases remain low.”
As to the criteria for selecting cities, Himmelsbach said, “We are visiting places where someone from our team currently lives.” They’ll play host for some but not all of the visit. “We found that people are excited to show us their favorite places around town,” he said. “It's a great way to have the team get to know a little more about their colleagues.”
And clients too. “We are fortunate that many of our clients and partners are located in these cities. They are also excited to see us in person and are going to participate in some of our events with us.”
The agency has done recent campaigns for companies including Schwab. Newsela and Windstar Cruises.