A Fresh Take On Agency Return-To-Office Plans: Think Like A Travel Marketer

Over the last few months, the reopening of agencies has been imperfect and awkward. But seeds are planting. Sparks of hallway conversation are picking up. The act itself of “being” in the office is not drawing people back in; it’s the longing for experiences they can have while there.

Like many agencies going through the pandemic, we hired talent from all over the country. Today, 50% of our staff work outside the Sausalito area where our headquarters sit. So, when it came time to make plans for our “return to office,” we knew we had to approach things differently. An idea emerged: Think like a destination marketer.

What if agency leaders are approaching office reopenings all wrong? What if we took a page out of a travel marketing playbook, and treated our office like a destination? We all look forward to going somewhere, so let’s bottle that into how we communicate and plan for bringing people back to the office.

Let Us Be Your Travel Agent



Think about how you plan a vacation, packing your itinerary with local experiences or excursions. During our recent “reopening week,” we planned three days of events so people could get the most out of their trip.

Think about the outreach travel brands conduct in the lead-up to a trip -- offering places to see, things to do, where to eat. How can you do the same for your team? Think beyond the office. Get teams excited about what they can experience in parallel. We created “Sausalito Shorts,” films featuring quirky stories about our town, to get our team excited about returning.

Or lean into travel trends like “voluntourism,” giving employees a chance to volunteer with local organizations, further immersing themselves in local culture. 

Location, Location, Location

Agencies are often located somewhere interesting.  Create your agency’s Lonely Planet guide to the community. At a time when health and wellness are key, our guide, “Sights of Sausalito,” directed people to paths for “walk and talks” by the beach and an infamous recording studio, even providing directions to the kayak hut with a standing agency account.

Agency Leader Turned Concierge

Whether local or remote, we want our employees to have an office experience that enhances their agency culture experience. The onus is now on agency leaders and HR teams to step up -- acting like a “concierge” in some ways -- going the extra mile to make talent feel seen, guiding teams together, making introductions, helping them get the most out of the office and taking in feedback as they go.

Don’t Forget the Ratings and Reviews

Employee feedback is nothing new, but we need to rethink how we’re getting it and what we’re doing with it. Encouraging real-time, honest reviews of office policies or activities can help us gain insight into what’s providing the most value. Finding ways to improve the employee experience can be a more collaborative process, and the resulting insights can help dictate team structure, future initiatives and more.

Now is the time to find creative solutions to the advertising industry’s talent issue. Approaching your back-to-office plans like a travel marketer is just one idea. We, as agency leaders, need to approach this challenge with more creativity. Gone are the days of standard recruiting practices, happy hours counting as “agency culture,” and once-a-year team surveys.

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