UTA this week became the first of the major agencies and one of the first entertainment companies to reopen its offices after 15 months, inviting back agents and support staff that have been vaccinated against Covid. The offices re-opened yesterday, this coming two weeks after the agency reopened refurbished offices in Nashville. Plans are to reopen in London August 31 and New York on September 7.
In the first stage, half of the Los Angeles workforce returned to the office. No visitors for the time being, and a return to office for the first time in 15 months is voluntary now, with those who didn’t return eligible to come back in the second stage of reintegration in a month. The physical offices are closed on Fridays for now. Complimentary lunch is being provided each day for the foreseeable future, and the courtyard of the Civic Center Drive headquarters has been refashioned to accommodate outdoor eating and meetings.
“The biggest challenge in opening was creating a sense of trust and security with our people, but we’ve taken the appropriate measures to create an environment where they can feel safe and healthy, and remind people that the communal experience of working together is really valuable in being as creative and collaborative as we want to be in the company,” said CEO Jeremy Zimmer. “Everyone who is vaccinated in the Los Angeles is welcome to return. The initial turnout is really good and on a monthly basis, additional people have the right to opt in. Our expectation is that by July 15, we are going to see a whole other level of participation and the numbers will continue to grow.”
Don’t expect a fast return to the traditional morning staff meetings that have long been an agency staple.
“We’re not having big meetings in conference rooms; the conference rooms will remain closed for the time being,” Zimmer said. “We have great outdoor space at UTA Plaza and we’ve set up a lot of tables and eating areas and we’re providing a lunch service where people can walk in, grab it and take it to a nice, safe outdoor space. Based that first day, people were excited by what we’d provided for them.”
Given the adversity of the past 15 months, the slow reopening of headquarters is a good sign that life is returning; Hollywood has always been a contact sport, social interaction a big part of it. Zimmer couldn’t guess when things will fully return to normal.
“That’s the $64,000 question, but what we’ve done is evaluate our choices and options step by step and try to make the best decision,” Zimmer said. “We’re not there yet, in terms of what that will look like. We still have to get New York and London back. As we go, we’ll continue to monitor what’s going on with the virus on a global basis, how are our people feeling about the return to offices so far, what are the ongoing impediments to seeing more people here. My guess is, the excitement that people have for returning to the office and collaborating in person will drive a lot of enthusiasm across our offices. We’ll see whether or not that’s true. Our clients are heading off to sets, I don’t think it’s too much to ask some of us to head to the offices as well.”
Zimmer said the reaction was strong between staff that hadn’t seen each other for more than a year. There was only one drawback he observed.
“I missed the memo that said I had to bring my laptop in, and so I spent the first day without a computer, but other than that it was pretty smooth sailing,” he said.