What do we want from the new normal?

What do we want from the new normal?

It’s almost a year since the great exodus from workplaces happened almost overnight. By and large, we have adapted and made it work, as an emergency measure, because we had to. But is it something we want to see continue as we move beyond the pandemic restrictions?

Having seen what can be achieved without use of office space, many publishing companies are now considering the advantages of making working from home the new normal. Some have already downsized their office space. Staff members no longer have a desk or physical department to return to. Whatever space and set-up they use at home is now their only ‘office’; the traditional workplace has become a place for hot desking and booking meeting rooms.

A permanent shift towards remote working could have a profound impact on our professional and our personal lives. It would undoubtedly work better for some people than others. Some home environments and households are more conducive to home working than others. Microsoft Teams, email and other digital communication platforms cannot replace the opportunities for casual chats, ‘catching someone’s eye’, learning from conversations around you ‒ and for making friends ‒ that are possible in a workplace.

That will matter to some people more than others, and may well vary according to where you are in your personal life and your career at any particular moment, and also your style of communicating.

Many of us will know colleagues who have found working from home suits them well, and would be only too happy to carry on. However, others are finding the experience isolating, frustrating and stressful and long to return to a collective workplace. With the end of the pandemic restrictions now in sight, it seems important that we have the chance to talk about what we want a new normal to look like.

To get things started, publishing members in the Oxford branch of the NUJ have teamed up with the Oxford Publishing Society and the Oxford Society of Young Publishers to launch a survey. The idea is to give everyone who works in publishing the chance to say how working from home works for them, and to learn about how different pros and cons correlate with differences in factors such as career stage, household set up, home environment, job role, caring responsibilities, health status and disabilities, and more.

The survey will be anonymous and the analysis will be published in the Bookseller. To open up the conversation, we will be inviting survey participants who opt in, to participate in an online discussion about what sort of new normal we want to see, in light of the findings from the survey.

We hope to reach a wide spread of publishing workers, to open up a conversation that includes as wide a range of demographics within our industry as possible.

The survey can be accessed at http://bit.ly/PublishingBeyondLockdown. It takes between 5 and 10 minutes to complete.

Please do take the time to make your voice heard and share the survey with your friends and colleagues.

Lynn Degele, Polly Silk, Charlotte Parr and Caroline Guillet are chairs of the Oxford NUJ, Oxford Publishing Society and co-chairs of the Oxford Society of Young Publishers.