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How Hybrid Marketing Teams Can Thrive During the Era of the Great Reshuffle

We surveyed over 1,200 marketing leaders across the UK, US, and Australia to understand how marketing leaders are dealing with the ‘Great Resignation’.

With most of the Canva team working in either a fully remote or hybrid setup over the last couple of years, we’ve discovered first-hand how teams can thrive outside the confines of an office. In fact, the last two years have been our biggest yet, with our global marketing function doubling headcount, expanding to the US and Europe, and delivering our first major international advertising campaigns. At Canva, we’ve made the decision to embrace flexibility and connection permanently, with an ongoing hybrid work model(opens in a new tab or window) that only requires people to visit their local office twice per quarter.

With workplaces slowly reopening, marketing leaders are establishing their long-term approach to build and scale effective teams in a hybrid environment, and we’re exploring how best to best support them. Partnering with Qualtrics, we asked over 1,200 marketers across the US, UK, and Australia about their experiences, and discovered that at least some level of work flexibility is expected over the long term — with over 6 in 10 saying they would refuse to take a job that was fully confined to an office.

But despite the popularity of hybrid workplaces 44% are considering leaving their jobs, and this rises to 52% for fully remote marketers. Using the research, our own learnings, and insights from several senior marketing and technology leaders, we’ve uncovered some of the reasons behind this and the core ingredients for successful hybrid marketing teams.

Asynchronous and Visual Communication is Essential for Team Engagement

It comes as no surprise that it’s challenging to keep teams engaged when most interactions are taking place through a screen. Video calls are useful but when left unchecked, “meeting creep” can quickly take over full days. This is something we experienced at Canva, and we’re not alone — with 85% of those in our study reporting frustration at the number of meetings.

To reduce video calls at Canva, and to promote global inclusion for those who aren’t able to attend meetings in different timezones, we’ve increased our use of visual asynchronous communication formats. For example, we use engaging videos and internal ‘hype reels’ for everything from company-wide updates and internal messages, as well as Talking Presentations — a Canva feature that allows people to add short recorded videos to their slides (see example(opens in a new tab or window)).

But effective asynchronous visual communication requires more than simply recording and sharing a meeting. To keep people engaged, it’s important to keep communications succinct and consider things like images, animations, and data visualisations which help to engage more visual learners.

While online meetings are important, they are best reserved for times when dialogue and interaction are required, such as brainstorming, team building, and personal development. One great example comes from Jackie Lee-Joe, Global Head of Customer, Content & Marketing, at Money by Afterpay, whose team established informal leadership all-hands, where leaders can answer pressing questions in an open forum to encourage transparency and real-time context-sharing.

She adds, “In many ways, working from home has allowed us all to see beyond our ‘work selves’ and to appreciate the other facets of us and our — at times — messy lives. More than ever it helped us ‘see’ each other, and deepen our connection, making it easier to share our worries, give encouragement, or simply to listen.”

New and Effective Marketing Processes are Needed to Battle Burnout

While some facets of hybrid and remote work can help to improve work-life balance, our research shows this isn’t always the case for marketing teams. 7 in 10 struggle to balance work and home life and 88% say their excessive workload is a challenge. So how can marketing teams mitigate this, without rejecting hybrid work completely?

Approval processes have never been perfect, but it seems that hybrid work is making things worse. As the research shows, 69 percent say that processes for approving assets are too time-consuming and 87 percent say this is a major blocker. If marketers operate in silos, this harms productivity, leads to longer hours, and can also lead to miscommunication and duplication of work.

Mayur Gupta the Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Gannett. predicts, “the future will be based on trust, tremendous flexibility, clear accountability, and transparency. It also requires relying on tools that will inspire collaboration and creative thinking.” Given the reduction in face time, it’s important that marketers have a way to keep everyone’s work visible, without feeling micromanaged, or under pressure to overcommunicate.

At Canva, we’ve been using our own product to manage our marketing team’s work during the pandemic, thanks to features such as real-time collaboration, commenting, and instant notifications.

Rather than constantly switching between different tools, or downloading and re-uploading email attachments, Canva supports the entire end-to-end visual communications process in one place. We’re able to design and collaborate on everything from social media assets to presentations and reports, with comments that facilitate feedback and approvals without unnecessary admin. Our templates also make it simpler to create and present visual information effectively, from collaborative whiteboards(opens in a new tab or window), marketing videos(opens in a new tab or window), infographics(opens in a new tab or window) and much more, that can easily be customised to fit your brand.

Making time to rest and recharge is another important way marketing teams can prevent burnout. We recently introduced five days of ‘flex leave’ to help people look after themselves and their family, Meeting Free Wednesdays, and a global recharge day, where everyone is encouraged to take the day off for themselves.

When interviewed, Kathryn Carter, the General Manager of Snap Inc APAC shares how her marketing team pivoted to adapt. “Both globally and locally, [Snap Inc has] focussed on an empathetic approach, ensuring that we have addressed requests for mental health and wellbeing support for our teams. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve encouraged staff to schedule their days around their lives, and set regular company-wide time off to recharge.“

The Importance of Fostering Team Connection and Happiness in a Hybrid Setting

In hybrid workplaces, it’s equally important that no one feels left out, particularly for teams working across different time zones, or those juggling additional responsibilities at home. 83% of marketing leaders say flexible work makes it easier to hire better overseas talent, so we can expect marketings teams to be increasingly international.

But without regular facetime in the office, it’s vital that everyone has equal opportunities to collaborate. 68% of marketers say that hybrid work limits social opportunities and 63% indicate that it’s more difficult to maintain a hybrid work culture.

Marketing leaders are looking at several areas to facilitate this, with increased investment in personal development and teambuilding (86%). Yet surprisingly, only 42% have implemented virtual team bonding exercises, and just 36% have implemented a regular employee pulse survey.

At Canva, we’ve spent a lot of time building a unique and intentional culture that is accessible to all. During company-wide lockdowns, we conducted culture surveys to understand and meet everyone’s needs and spent time transitioning our physical events and cadences to an online format. Our tradition of season openers — a quarterly all-company planning and celebration day— has now been redesigned for people at home, with both an in-person and remote component.

This features high production values to encourage engagement, such as the creation of a spoof sitcom, a 3D avatar party where people could virtually chat to each other, and physical gifts and activities that we send to each team member to join the celebrations from anywhere in the world. We also take a similar approach for team celebrations, such as our virtual Road Trip to celebrate the launch of our first TV ad.

For those that still need in-person interaction to stay engaged at work, the Canva marketing team is placing more effort on regular in-person moments so people can choose to work on days when everyone comes together. This includes offsite lunches throughout the week, pizza nights, and our monthly team all hands, which we’ve redesigned to become a celebration in addition to

As the data shows, most marketing teams want to see a mix of in-person and remote work, with an average of 2.6 days in the office each week. But the best hybrid workplaces are the ones that prioritise choice and unique needs, even if that means some hardly ever work from the office. For successful hybrid workplaces, it’s important that everyone can take part equally.

Hybrid teams are the future of marketing…and success is possible

Even before the pandemic, marketing teams were moving towards some form of flexible work, and the pandemic simply accelerated this change. However, the sheer speed at which workplaces were forced to go online means that in many cases, marketing teams are still trying to find processes and communication practices that are sustainable over the long term.

While some marketing teams face challenges with engagement, there is strong evidence that these can be solved with the support of the right technology and efforts to establish an open and collaborative culture. As we see more adoption of asynchronous communications methods plus a new breed of comprehensive collaboration and creation tools, marketers have an exciting opportunity to establish truly diverse, flexible, and rewarding teams.

For more on Canva’s culture and transition to remote work, check out our blog post on the lessons we learned supporting our team during lockdown(opens in a new tab or window).