Press Gazette readers say they prefer working from home and they are more productive away from office

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Less than a third of Press Gazette readers who responded to a poll on remote working said they miss the office and want to go back.

Some 121 people of 414 (29%) who responded said they want to return, while 142 (34%) said they prefer working remotely.

People were more likely to say they were more productive at home than in the office: 185 people (45%) said this versus 80 (19%) who said they were less productive doing remote work.

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People were asked to vote for two preferences in the poll, which ran on the Press Gazette website between 13 and 20 August, although not everyone did.

Press Gazette reported earlier this month that many newsrooms remain largely empty almost five months after the UK went into lockdown, with few rushing back to normality and some starting to permanently offer more flexibility for remote working.

In the US, the New York Daily News has gone as far as permanently closing its newsroom as a result of the crisis.

A spokesperson for the newspaper’s owner Tribune Publishing said: “Out of an abundance of caution we do not anticipate having employees that can work remotely coming back into the office for the remainder of the year and into 2021.

“With no clear path forward in terms of returning to work, and as the company evaluates its real estate needs in light of health and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close the office.”

Time Out staff have begun to return to the magazine’s London headquarters with safety measures in place, including social distancing arrows on the floor.

“It is good to see our colleagues slowly returning for this mix of home and office work,” chief executive Julio Bruno wrote.

Magazine publisher Hearst UK opened parts its office in June for staff to book after realising not everyone had ideal home working environments, with a plan to increase capacity in September by opening up two further floors and allowing in-person team meetings.

Chief financial, operations and data officer Claire Blunt said the company plans to remain “more agile” going forward with a combination of office and home working depending on what is “most effective for [staff] and also the business”.

Hearst’s safety measures include requiring staff to wear masks as they move around the office, a regular fogging programme, and one-way systems so people travel up in the lifts and down stairs.

Regional journalists at JPI Media have begun a phased return to newsrooms.

Sheffield Star editor Nancy Fielder has written about how her management team were the first to return for one day a week throughout August “as we balance the need to have proper conversations with the importance of not rushing back to the office without the right precautions in place”.

She is taking the temperatures of her staff as they arrive at the office, the tea round and shared biscuits are banned, and half of the desks in the newsroom are blocked off to ensure social distancing.

Archant chief content officer Matt Kelly wrote to staff, the majority of whom continue to work from home, with encouragement about “how to ride out the storm until normality returns” including by getting away from their desks to make “face-to-face (or mask to mask) contact” with readers.

According to HTFP, Kelly said: “I share this because I’m sure there a number of you out there feeling a little demotivated and discouraged by the extended absence from the office environment, especially if you are less experienced and still finding out for yourself what kind of journalist you really are.

“If so, you won’t be alone, I promise. So, a few suggestions on how to ride out the storm until normality returns. Talk things through with your editor today and let she/him know that you’ve found it tough going. Discuss how you might be able to get together more often as a team.”

Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday that the amount of people who have caught Covid-19 in workplaces so far is “relatively low, we think, from the evidence we’ve got” as he said household transmission is the “core root” of passing on the virus.

But this message was criticised by some scientists.

Professor Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, told PA: “Working from home minimises your and your family’s risk from Covid-19 and flu. Working from home will keep down the overall number of transmissions in the whole country.

“If you can work from home without any detriment then it is reasonable to carry on doing this, but if you have to go to the office the risk is minimal and can be managed to be even lower.”

From 1 August Government guidelines have given employers the discretion to decide when workers should decide to offices, a move away from the previous guidance to work from home wherever possible.

A previous Press Gazette poll revealed 26% of our readers do not expect to return to the office at all, while 23% think they will return next year at the earliest.

Picture: Pixabay/Jagrit Parajuli

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