Sean Cummins: ‘I’m tired of people saying that working from home is better… it’s not’

Industry leaders are scared to voice support of returning to the office post-Covid, according to Sean Cummins, founder of independent agency, Cummins&Partners.

Speaking to Mumbrella, Cummins said it is unfortunate that the topic has become a one-sided conversation and declared he is tired of the “dogma”.

“When you try to bring the other side in, people say: ‘Well, of course you’d say that, you’re an employer blah, blah, blah’. It’s not about that at all. I wouldn’t care where my people worked – what I care about is my people, their health, their mental health, and their ability to actually separate work from home and work from life.”

Sean Cummins

Cummins said he was prompted by seeing someone “triumphantly proclaim the results are in”, citing 85% of people wanting to work from home.

He said after seeing former Australian of the Year and youth mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry speak at a seminar last week, Cummins perspective was emboldened by his more eloquent wording.

“He wouldn’t say fast enough how incredibly important it is, particularly for younger people, to go to work, learn at work and have people around them, guiding and instructing. Not this nasty little diatribe of micromanaging or whatever, but collegiate, nourishing interactions that can only happen, particularly in our industry, through face-to-face interactions.”

“My personal point of view is, I’m tired of the dogma. I’m tired of people saying that working from home is better and acting as though it’s incontrovertibly true. It is not. My whole point is separate work from home. It’s a beautiful way of doing it.

“It just needs to be a balanced discussion, and I am for the majority of time at work. I am for flexibility, but I’m not for this whole sense that this is indeed a good thing. It’s not a good thing if you can’t separate work from home.”

Cummins also added that when you go to work “you get to be a different person”, before having the opportunity to then “switch off” when you go home.

“It’s valuable and important for our mental health to reach into different aspects of our capability, personality, our modality if you like, and actually be someone else, and then be able to leave it and be just the regular dad, mum or whatever.”

“We are a better industry, and I only talk about marketing advertising, when we are there socialising, bumping into each other, contesting, and bouncing off each other.”

Does Cummins think this approach will hinder hiring in a tough talent market? He isn’t worried.

“I won’t worry about talent not wanting to work with us,” he said. “I think it’s difficult for me to answer that question because what we provide is a desirable workplace, and if it’s desirable, people want to go in there because every day they feel filled up with a lively experience.

“It can’t be: just come to work and good luck to you. I think it’s incumbent on employers and leaders and managers to make work interesting. It’s not about ping-pong tables anymore. That’s just trinkets. It’s about meaningful connections, little conversations and brilliant moments of collision. So if people don’t like that, they’ll never like that, and they never would have liked that in the first place.

“If people don’t want to work with us because they want to work at home, that is fine, that is their journey.”

Cummins said the agency has always been, and is a “destination agency”, where young people can “fast-track their careers” because of the no-nonsense, flat, and meritocratic approach it takes.

He said this is evidenced through the large number of senior talent in the industry that have gone through his agency that are now either leading their own agencies or doing “wonderful things in the market”, which is a credit to the culture and environment fostered over the years.


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