PRH explores hybrid working as publishers rule out office vaccination requirement

PRH explores hybrid working as publishers rule out office vaccination requirement

Penguin Random House is exploring a hybrid model of working in the future and has joined other publishers in ruling out a requirement for staff to be vaccinated before they return to the office.  

Offices will begin reopening from 19th July but attendance by PRH staff is currently entirely voluntary. Most of the major publishers have now set out their plans for a return to office working, with HarperCollins asking staff to return to the office for at least two days a week from September as part of a six-month pilot, while Hachette is planning a three-day office working policy to fully come into effect from September. Pan Macmillan will not make staff come into the office for a set number of days under its future working plans, though it still anticipates many staff will “want and need to work at least two to three days per week in the office”. 

The Bookseller understands that PRH has followed the government’s guidance on office-based workplaces throughout the course of the pandemic and is working towards re-opening its offices from 19th July in line with the latest government announcement. Attendance at this stage will be voluntary and it will take a phased approach based on 50% occupancy initially, to maintain the safety of employees. 

The publisher gathered feedback from colleagues through surveys and focus groups and is exploring a hybrid model. It has not outlined any requirements of colleagues at this stage in terms of working location or number of days in the office as the company aims to use the coming months to experience new ways of working and test hybrid working fully after Covid-19 restrictions lift.

Last month Bloomsbury said it will require staff to be vaccinated before returning to its offices from 19th July, after taking “medical and scientific advice”. The publisher told The Bookseller it had to do what it believes is right for the wellbeing of staff.  

However, currently no other publishers appear to be following suit, with Profile m.d. Andrew Franklin labelling mandatory vaccination for a return to the office as “a gross intrusion into people’s private decisions”. He said: “We are expecting people to come into the office two days a week from September and are greatly looking forward to seeing everyone.” 

Ian Chapman, c.e.o. at Simon & Schuster, also said it would not be compulsory for staff to have had vaccinations before they return. He said: “As long as staff feel comfortable to return to the office they are welcome to do so. We will continue to follow government guidelines and our own protocols to minimise risk within our workplace, and are also encouraging staff to test themselves on a regular basis.” 

Hachette will also not be making vaccination mandatory, but will not be asking anyone to come back until they have been double vaccinated. HarperCollins said it did not have a policy on vaccinations, and is still continuing with its plan for staff to work from the office for at least two days a week from September. However, the offices are currently open for anyone who wants to come in during the interim.  

Bonnier Books UK is also not making vaccination compulsory. Staff will begin working at the new building in Bloomsbury in July on a voluntary basis. The company will return to the office formally in September with the option of working remotely three days a week—a further move towards flexible working that the company first announced last year.

A similar policy appears to be in place for some agencies. Caroline Michel said PFD has kept itsr offices open for much of the year, albeit it with temperature and capacity checks in place.

She told The Bookseller: “We have put in all the required Covid protection, and have very much left it to the individual as to whether they would like to do days in the office during this very uncertain period. We monitor the numbers, and take the temperatures of everybody who arrives. We are planning a hybrid return to the office in September, where we will still be observing Covid restrictions as in distancing, and numbers of people in the space, because we think this is only sensible. We all believe we can manage a practical and productive return to work, enjoying both the benefits of office life, with the alternative and advantage of working from home.”