Office Hubs and Special Days, Better Virtual Tools and More Staff Training Will Highlight 2022

It now appears that Work From Work Wednesdays is a thing.

“As employees at financial technology startup CommonBond got COVID vaccines, and grew stir-crazy in their apartments, they started trickling back into the office,” a Yahoo story reports today. “’We call it Work From Work Wednesday,’ said Keryn Koch, who runs human resources at the company, which has 15,000 square feet of sunlit real estate in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City.”

The headline of that story is The Worst of Both Worlds: Zooming From the Office, and the photo shows CommonBond VP Kara Phillips sitting alone in the office share-room with Pepper, the dog she adopted during the pandemic, at her feet. This is obviously not the answer.

While our perception of remote work has advanced considerably, a lot of heavy lifting will still need to be done in 2022 to make media companies and editorial departments adapt to the hybrid landscape. In a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism—titled Changing Newsrooms 2021: Hybrid Working and Improving Diversity Remain Twin Challenges for Publishers—just 9% of news organizations plan to reject remote work entirely. “The real question now seems to be how to manage the shift from enforced remote working to hybrid work.”

Here are suggestions from that report:

Use this period to reshape your organization. “News leaders reported feeling like they had a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to reshape the newsroom.” And this came from the report: “In an ideal world… a new operating model [is created] where work is done without reference to location, where talent is used more effectively, where hierarchies are less formal, and where diverse groups are included in conversations.”

Experiment with office design. According to the report, almost 75% have or plan to redesign their office space as part of the move to hybrid. The staff of German broadcaster RTL said that they appreciated the additional flexibility of remote work but missed “the buzz of the office.” So “their news department replaced desks with shared ‘hubs’ that anyone can use and created coffee bar-inspired areas and other spaces dedicated to brainstorming and creative conversations.” In Canada, The Globe and Mail reduced its office space from three floors to two and plans to have an app that’ll put teams into ‘neighborhoods’ and allow staff to book different areas. “You have to change your environment,” said Crain Communications CEO KC Crain. “The idea that you are going to bring people back and have them sit in a cube right now is not going to happen.”

Refine the best ways for managers to keep up with staff. According to the report, “managers feel they are bearing the brunt of major changes to operational working with the extra burden of communicating with and motivating staff they rarely see face to face.” “Being virtual does tend to push you back into silos,” said Phil Chetwynd, global news director of AFP. The report mentions the difficulty to balance “operational requirements with new expectations from employees around flexibility and personal autonomy…” “…Even if you have the coolest workspace at your office, you still need to compete for talent,” said KC Crain. “When you think about the digital age and people working in technology, they are kind of calling the shots. So if they want to sit at home and work because they are building websites, they are going to.”

Provide more training. “With fewer opportunities to ‘learn by osmosis’ in the newsroom itself, some companies like Reuters are developing online mentoring programs and encouraging networking groups for next-generation journalists and other groups,” the report says. “Others are beefing up formal training, including talks from senior journalists and editors. These alternatives may help fill the gap but for many new recruits they are a poor substitute for picking up skills from experienced colleagues in the cut and thrust of a busy newsroom.”

Develop your own Work From Work Wednesdays idea. “In a hybrid plan, the team comes in three days,” said Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom. “On those three days we have all our meetings, trainings, events, lunches—the hyper-social things… It’s honestly better time management.” Three days might be too much, but we’ll see. “Once we return to the office, each team will designate a ‘team day,’ and that will be the only required day each week for office attendance,” said Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media. “That said, many staff tell us they will be in the office multiple days per week because they like the environment, amenities, getting out of the house, or their home setup is crowded or prone to interruptions.”

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