25 APR 2022
XiaoLi Guo’s friends often ask her how she juggles caring for her 2-year-old daughter while working full time as a paid search associate for media agency MediaCom.
“I always circle back to the flexibility that I have,” she says. “It’s the only way I’ve been able to manage being a first-time mom with no childcare working from home.”
Remote work has been the routine for Guo since early 2020 because of the pandemic. Soon after, she went on maternity leave; when she returned in September of that year, she says her manager was incredibly understanding of her need to work flexible hours as a new parent who was getting back into the groove of work.
This flexibility allowed Guo and her husband, who also works from home, to spend valuable time with their daughter, without missing any of her milestones and continuing to advance their careers. Guo actually received a promotion to her current role in December 2020.
MediaCom is committed to offering its employees a hybrid work environment that’s responsive to where and how people work best. While many companies are requiring their teams to return to the office, MediaCom’s approach isn’t a stopgap—it’s a must to recruit and retain talent with different work needs.
Supporting employee health and well-being
Kevin McFadden, MediaCom’s associate director of business development, is living with psoriasis and says working from home has given him the flexibility to better care for his condition.
“I think, in general, for folks who face autoimmune conditions, it can be really shameful, and your quality of life can diminish from that,” he says. “Remote work offered more privacy for dealing with the condition and allowed me more TLC time at home.”
McFadden, who’s been with the company for five years, says his managers have been very open and understanding of his need for a flexible approach. While he works mostly from home, he’s gone into the office a few times over the past few months.
The flexible work environment fosters trust among teams and keeps lines of communication open. For McFadden, it has meant a better work-life balance as he’s able to take better care of his health during the day while still getting work done—not one or the other.
“That makes me want to work harder and better when I am working,” he adds. “I find that not being forced to be in an office five days a week, nine to 10 hours a day, it gives you the freedom to explore that which you naturally gravitate toward.”
Providing office time, but not requiring it
Some MediaCom employees do prefer working in the office, however. Account lead Imran Ismail, who’s been with the company for eight years, says going to the office provides the structure that he prefers.
Getting small groups together safely to solve problems, have creative discussions, and socialize are elements that he values about in-office time.
Still, he appreciates the flexibility of hybrid work. He is in the office about three days a week and works remotely the rest of the time.
This has enabled him to spend more time with his parents who live about 150 miles from New York City, where Ismail is based. During the pandemic, he lived with them for several months.
As a team leader, Ismail says the current hybrid approach has made him more compassionate and empathetic to other employees’ needs. “I think it’s really allowed us to expand the definitions of communication, client service, and marketing strategy to include the way that we work as part of the product,” he says.
Ismail says the company embraces another level of flexibility—it extends beyond where and when someone works. Employees are encouraged to find new, better ways of doing things and build new skill sets.
“We’re reevaluating everything that we consider to be conventional wisdom, and that’s been really beneficial because it’s allowed us to take a look at everything to make it better,” he says.
Fostering career growth
MediaCom’s flexible workplace extends beyond working from home or during the hours that best meet employees’ personal needs. The agency offers an internal mobility program, that lays a path for flexible careers, too. Employees can advance through the company by changing roles, teams, or even agencies—all while learning new skills.
Timothy Meador recently transferred to MediaCom from another GroupM agency as manager of planning on a new account at the agency. As a Georgia native, Meador says he felt a personal connection to working with the iconic brand, and MediaCom gave him a promotion to move over.
Transferring to MediaCom was such a seamless process “I just walked out of one door into the other,” he says. “It was very easy, and I’m very pleased with how it all went down.”
“That’s something that really stands out about MediaCom and having that flexibility built in is it’s just really appealing long term.”
Empowering employees to take on anything
Employee well-being is a crucial part of MediaCom’s workplace strategy. The company provides resources and support around mental health, remote work, client relationships, managing remote teams, and spending time in the office (if employees choose).
Feeling supported makes the flexibility work, and that’s empowering, Guo says.
She adds that it’s taught her to communicate more efficiently, stay organized, tackle challenges head-on, and be creative and innovative in how she approaches her work.
“It’s given me a new sense of confidence that I’m able to continue to work from home and be productive during my day and take care of my child,” Guo says. “It’s taught me that there isn't anything I can't take on.”
This was first featured on The Muse on April 25, 2022.