UK newsroom return: From no vaccine passports to hybrid working

UK newsroom return: No vaccine passports, hybrid working model widely embraced, delayed return for some

UK newsroom return

UK newsrooms are favouring a hybrid working model, which includes a mixture of office and remote working, with some companies pushing for a physical return this month and others holding off.

Throughout the pandemic, some newsroom staff continued to go in to the office, but the vast majority of journalists worked from home. This has largely continued despite the easing of government restrictions on 19 July 2021 and the successful rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

An expected push to return to the office this month has not taken effect at many newsbrands, while others have already welcomed staff back.

[Read more: Newsrooms eye permanent change to working practices after Covid-19 lockdown]

None of the major UK national newsbrands appear to be insisting that staff are fully vaccinated before returning to the newsroom, but vaccine take-up is widely being encouraged. Regular testing is still required in some newsrooms, such as the Daily Mail, Guardian and FT.

Many offices have adapted to include social distancing, while masks are still being enforced by some but only in communal areas. At BBC News, white lanyards are being used to show that wearers wish to be given extra space.

[Read more: Reach closes most of its newsrooms as Mail Online staff return to office this month]

Press Gazette’s survey of nearly 600 media professionals, carried out in March 2021, found that of the 80% of respondents who expected a return to the office, the majority foresaw a partial return.

In the US, the Delta variant of Covid-19 has forced many of America’s largest newsrooms to delay their return-to-office plans indefinitely.

Get in touch with Freddy Mayhew at freddy.mayhew@pressgazette.co.uk about your newsroom situation. All emails treated with confidence.

UK newsroom return September 2021

DMG Media

Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro, The i

Based at Northcliffe House, Kensington High Street, London

Newsroom return: Since 19 August staff have not been required to fill out a medical questionnaire before returning to the office, Press Gazette understands there is no official word on a set date for staff to return.

Social distancing / masks policy? It is understood that social distancing measures have been relaxed since 19 August, but desks continue to be spaced out and some screens remained. Masks have not been mandatory since July, but are recommended when using the lifts.

Vaccine policy? It is understood that staff do not have to have been fully vaccinated to return to the office, but have been encouraged to take Covid-19 tests twice weekly, regardless of symptoms, and to take a PCR test if they do have symptoms to support those not yet fully vaccinated. An on-site testing service is available.

Reach

Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday

Based at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London and The Northern and Shell Building, Lower Thames Street, London

Newsroom return: No date set

Social distancing / masks policy? None

Vaccine policy? On-site testing

 A Reach spokesperson said: “In light of the recent increase in Covid cases across the UK, we’re currently reviewing our plans for a more regular return to the office and using this time to re-examine our safety protocols and consult with our local leaders about bringing in additional measures.

“Many of our hubs are being refurbished and while we’re excited to start using them and begin seeing each other in person again, the safety of our people remains our first priority.”

[Read more: Mirror publisher Reach surveys staff as it looks to ‘challenge traditional ways of working]

News UK

The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, The Times, The Sunday Times

Based at The News Building, London Bridge Street, London 

Newsroom return: Staff have already returned to the office on a regular basis. There is no fixed policy on how many days people should be in the office. Staff at the Times titles are working in the office two-three days a week. Staff at The Sun are encouraged to return to the office for one or two days a week.

Social distancing  / masks policy? Social distancing is being applied “throughout all of our spaces while working at near to 100% capacity”, a spokesperson said. Shared areas are cleaned several times an hour and desks every day. Hand sanitising stations remain with cleaning supplies available for all desks. Staff will continue to wear face coverings in communal areas

Vaccine policy? Staff are encouraged to get their vaccine as soon as it is their turn, but are not required to be vaccinated or to prove it to enter the newsroom.

[Read more: ‘Swings and roundabouts’: What Covid-19 remote working has done to newsroom productivity]

Guardian News and Media

The Guardian, The Observer

Based at Kings Place, Kings Cross, London

Newsroom return: UK staff have been gradually returning to the office since last week. From October most staff will be expected to be in the office two or three days a week, trialling a hybrid working model.

Social distancing / masks policy? Staff are asked to take a lateral flow test before coming in to the newsroom and to wear a face mask when moving around the building, which will initially operate at a reduced occupancy “to give everyone more space” alongside an “enhanced cleaning regime”.

Vaccine policy? Not insisting staff be vaccinated or to prove it.

Telegraph Media Group

The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph

Based at Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, London

Newsroom return: The vast majority of editorial and other staff are already back in the office. All staff will be expected to resume “normal office working” from 27 September 2021, but those with with specific conditions/concerns will be able to continue to work from home.

Social distancing / masks policy? Staff are not being asked to social distance or wear masks, Press Gazette understands, but risk control measures are in place in line with government guidance.

Vaccine policy? Not insisting staff be vaccinated or to prove it.

FT Group

Financial Times

Based at Bracken House, Cannon Street, London

Newsroom return: No set date for return, but FT will adopt a hybrid working model that “promotes flexibility and allows us all to work remotely to a greater extent than before”. An FT spokesperson said: “We value the office as a hub for collaboration and sustaining our culture, so bringing people together again when it’s safe to do so is a priority.”

Social distancing / masks policy? Staff are being asked to take lateral flow tests ahead of visiting the office and to continue social distancing and wearing masks in public areas.

Vaccine policy? UK staff are encouraged to be fully vaccinated, while for US staff it is mandatory for those returning to offices.

PA Media

Based at The Point, North Wharf Road, Paddington, London

Newsroom return: Newsrooms have remained open throughout lockdown but the majority of staff worked from home. The number of staff in newsrooms each day is increasing and is expected to grow over the coming weeks.

Social distancing / masks policy? Staff are asked to wear masks in general access areas outside of the newsroom. Not all desks are occupied to maintain social distancing, with each desk allocated to an individual each day and cleaned overnight.

Vaccine policy? Not insisting staff be vaccinated or to prove it.

Pete Clifton, editor-in-chief at PA Media, said: “We have definitely learned some lessons from lockdown – for example, very early or late shifts can be done from home, not all weekend shifts have to be in the office, and there’s no point getting a reporter to spend time getting to the office only for them to be sent straight out on a job again.”

BBC News

Based at Broadcasting House, Marylebone, London

Newsroom return? Some news staff and senior management have been working in the office throughout the pandemic.

Social distancing / masks policy? All offices moved to 1m social distancing on 17 August. A 2m distance will be maintained in all production settings until at least mid-September. Staff can wear white lanyards to signal that they wish to maintain social distancing, following the Government’s Distance Aware initiative. Face coverings are mandatory in all nations except England, where people are encouraged to wear a mask when moving around and in communal areas in BBC buildings.

Vaccine policy? Not insisting staff be vaccinated or to prove it, but staff are being asked to voluntarily update on vaccine status.

 A BBC spokesperson said: “Like a lot of large organisations, we are moving towards a hybrid office and home working model. We will continue to prioritise the health and safety of our staff, alongside the protection of our output, as we approach additional numbers returning to our sites.”

ITN

ITV News, Channel 4 News, 5 News

Based at Grays Inn Road, Farringdon, London

Newsroom return: Since 16 August 2021 staff have been able to voluntarily come in to the office pending approval from line managers to control numbers. Some staff have continued to work in newsrooms throughout the pandemic under Covid-compliant conditions.

No date set yet, but staff will eventually be asked to attend the office a set number of days per week depending on their role and the business need.

Social distancing / masks policy?

Covid measures remain in place for the foreseeable, including social distancing, wearing face coverings in communal areas and limitations on numbers allowed in the office.

Vaccine policy? Not insisting staff be vaccinated or to prove it unless there is a business requirement, such as for overseas travel.

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