Social Lives 154 | Remote Controlled
Why are clients so keen for freelancers to return to the office?
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Happy three-year anniversary of the first lockdown everyone! I’m sure I can’t be alone in feeling that time has passed both very slowly and very quickly since Covid gripped the globe in 2020. A lot has changed - we went through three Prime Ministers in under twelve months, Elon Musk purchased Twitter and I changed my hair colour roughly five times (for those of you keeping track, I’m blonde now). However, one aspect of the before-times is slowly creeping its way back via the dogged determination of clients to get us freelancers back into the office.
I remember, back when Covid was at its height, we were all told that the world had irrevocably changed when it came to work and we’d never have to commute to offices unless a) it was urgent and b) we really wanted to. Yet, since the beginning of this year, I’ve noticed more and more freelance roles requiring people to be physically in the office a few days each week. While I can understand this if you’re dealing with super-secret-data, this seems a bit silly for social media roles. I cannot think of a single aspect of my job that would require me to commute to someone’s office and sit at a whole new desk for eight hours.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate the change of scenery and (occasional) free hot beverages, it’s just that a return train ticket from Liverpool to London is expensive. When I commuted between the two every week, ten years ago, I could get a return for £50. Now it’s rare to get change from £100. While I’m lucky enough to be able to afford this, what about those freelancers who can’t? It feels deeply unfair that some incredibly good social media managers and content creators could be shut out of opportunities because they can’t afford regular visits to London.
I’m not against hybrid working, or working from client’s offices (even if I did get Covid the last time I visited one). I’ve just always found it a bit awkward. Whenever I arrive at a client’s office, I always feel like the new kid at school, desperately trying to find a hot desk I can sit at, a WiFi password I can use, and a toilet I can go cry in* (*if any of my previous clients are reading this and want to know if I’ve ever cried in their toilets, feel free to email me!) I remember a client telling me I had to work from their office for a whole week, only for no one to speak to me while I was there.
I worry that this is a slow descent back to the way things were five years ago, when many clients told freelancers that they had to be in their office each day or they wouldn’t get the gig. With the price of everything increasing, and day rates (sadly) decreasing - another topic of conversation for another time - it doesn’t feel like a good return on investment. One of the few good things about the pandemic was the feeling that the digital marketing industry didn’t have to be contained within its traditional centres of power. I’ve worked on projects where my designer was in Brazil and my client services team were in Paris. Would it have made a huge difference if we were all in the same office? Well, there would probably have been fewer Teams calls, but that’s about it.
I also worry that there’s an element of presenteeism at play here. Clients tell you that they want you to be in the office so you can ‘soak up the vibes’ and ‘feel like a valued part of the team’. But when you’re a freelancer, you are very aware that you’re a temporary solution to a temporary problem. You can’t get too comfy in any role, because tomorrow you might be unceremoniously turfed out without even a thanks for your service. When you’re told you have to spend a few days in the office each week, I wonder if it’s because the client wants to see what they’re getting for their money.
The world has changed so much in the past three years and the world of work has changed with it. It would be so regressive if we were all forced to return to our long-abandoned offices for arbitrary reasons, like improving the annual profits of Pret a Manger.
Freelance: Vera Content have a role available for a freelance Social Media Manager and Content Strategist
Freelance: Short Form are an award winning production company who specialise in sports dramas. They wish to hire a freelance Social Media Expert to work with them 2-3 days per week.
FTC: Reddit are advertising for a German and English speaking Creative Strategist on a six month contract
Full Time: Little Dot Studios are looking for a Social Media Executive who is also a huge women’s football fan
Part Time: We are F are recruiting a part-time Paid Social Media Manager
INTERESTING THING OF THE WEEK: HOW TO MANAGE SOCIAL MEDIA DURING AN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN
Like it or not, we currently live in fiscally ‘interesting’ times. And, sadly, this is having an effect on social media budgets. It’s a hard truth that social media roles are always the first ones to be cut in any agency when there’s a recession, because it can be hard for us to prove our ROI. I saw a link to this interesting piece from Sprout Social earlier this week which provides some good tips on how to justify the important role social media plays when budgets are being slashed. We shouldn’t have to constantly prove our worth to keep our jobs, but it’s useful to have these tricks up your sleeve the next time someone gives you side eye and asks what you actually do all day.
IN THE NEWS
LinkedIn is launching a native post scheduling feature (LinkedIn)
Instagram is testing full length reels within Stories (Social Media Today)
Some key takeaways from the recent TikTok hearings in the US Congress (The Guardian)
Twitter claims ‘legacy’ blue checkmarks will start to disappear on April Fools’ Day (The Verge)
Utah has become the first US state to require social media firms get parental consent for children to use their apps and verify users are at least 18 (BBC News)
THINGS I LIKE
Please invite me to your party (The New Yorker)
I’m obsessed with this spicy tuna salad (Sous Chef)
The Cursed Objects podcast explores that great British lunchtime tradition, the meal deal (Cursed Objects)
This is an absolutely beautiful photo essay on the Mermaids of Weeki Wachee in Florida (The Cut)
Why everything you thought you knew about Italian food is wrong (Financial Times)
CAT OF THE WEEK: @WINDOWKITTY
If you’re in dire need of some joy this Friday (aren’t we all?) then I recommend taking some time out of your day to look at the @WindowKitty account on Instagram. Essentially, it’s just pictures of cats around the world sitting in windows and looking out at the world. As the owner of two cats who like nothing better than sticking their noses out of my office window and chatting with the local magpies, I’m a fan.
SEND ME YOUR CATS! If you'd like your kitty to be featured in the best (and only) newsletter to feature social media news and cats, email me!