Commentary

Publishers Grapple With Bringing Workers Back To Offices

News reports about company plans to bring workers back into offices show an emerging consensus that after the summer vacation season ends, many businesses want people at their desks at least three days a week. Publishers are among those companies that are pushing in this direction, as they seek to find a balance between their business needs and the demands of employees.
This tension can be challenging for managers on both the business and editorial sides at publishers. While salespeople and journalists are essentially information workers that can work from home, there’s also a lot to be said for bringing people together in the workplace to foster teamwork and creativity.
However, there is a major disconnect between management and workers throughout the economy when it comes flexible work arrangements. Eighty-three percent of CEOs said they want employees back in the office, while only 10% of employees said they want to go back to a fully in-office setting, according to a survey by the Best Practice Institute.  
Thirty-nine percent of U.S. adults said they would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work, while 64% would give up a big raise to work from home permanently, according to a study cited by Morning Consult and Bloomberg News.
In the publishing business, the tension between management and workers is becoming more apparent as unions representing workers at The New York Times and Hearst Magazines resist demands to bring people back. The NYT is asking employees to come in at least three days a week starting Sept. 6, while offering two-week blocks for remote work. Hearst, whose titles include Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, will bring in people three days a week starting Oct. 4, Insider reported.
The Times Guild, which mostly represents newsroom employees at the paper, said in a letter to management that the plan needs to be negotiated because it concerns workplace health and safety. Among other demands in the negotiations for a new contract, the union is pushing for complete flexibility for workers.
Hearst Magazines Media Union, which also represents mostly editorial workers, was dissatisfied that a company survey only asked workers if they wanted to work two to three days a week in the office, or more often, but didn’t allow for an indefinite work-from-home arrangement.
Workers currently may be in a strong position to insist on flexible work arrangements, but that may change in the next year or two. Some remote workers may start to feel like they’re missing out on opportunities for advancement while their in-office colleagues are forming stronger bonds with each other and cultivating relationships with their managers. The idea of being “out of sight, out of mind” may compel more people to come back.

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