We carried out a national survey earlier this year on working from home, along with the Oxford Publishing Society and the Oxford branch of the Society of Young Publishers. The results are now in, the numbers are crunched, and some important issues have been identified.
Almost 1,000 publishing professionals took part in ‘Beyond Lockdown – Does working from home work for you?’, representing academic books and journals and schools/educational publishing, through to trade publishing, children’s books and magazines and newsletters.
The majority (87%) of respondents who took part in the survey work full-time but also included were part-time, freelance and short-term contract workers.
There was plenty of scope for respondents to add comments throughout the questionnaire.
This outpouring of comments illustrates a wide range of issues from the blurring of home and work life and lack of suitable equipment and/or space, through to physical and mental health issues.
Our view on the findings
We were shocked by the large volume of responses – a reflection of people’s desperate need to talk about their experiences working from home.
Each of the three organisations who jointly ran the survey has commented on the results.
Anna Wagstaff, branch secretary at Oxford National Union of Journalists (NUJ) branch, said: “The survey showed that not all homes can double up as workplaces; not all communication, learning or mentoring, can be done remotely; and that not everyone separates their professional from their social networks.
“With many publishing companies now looking to transition to increased remote working, it is important to develop best practice so that any changes work for everyone, and don’t further disadvantage those who may already be finding it hard to cope.”
Caroline Guillet and Charlotte Parr, co-chairs of the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) said: “We were shocked by the large volume of responses to the survey which feels like a reflection of people’s desperate need to talk about their experiences working from home.
“It is clear from these results that one of the groups most negatively impacted by the shift to home working are those just starting their careers in publishing. We hope that employers will take this into consideration when constructing their new office policies and make sure that those early on in their career are given the support and equipment they need.”
Polly Silk, chair of Oxford Publishing Society (OPuS), said: “At Oxford Publishing Society, we felt it was vital to be part of this opportunity to give our membership a voice on this topic. The number of responses far exceeded our expectations and there was a huge amount of food for thought that we think will be of significant value to organisations deciding what to do next and how best to meet the needs of today’s publishing workforce.“
- The survey highlighted a gulf between the experiences and prospects of publishing professionals whose homes have also had to become their office during the past 15 months.
- Upsides to working from home cited included savings in time and money through not having to commute and the opportunity to live further away from the workplace.
- Further analysis showed that people with a dedicated home working space were less/not stressed. Conversely, those with little/no home workspace were more/most stressed.
- Younger and early/mid-level career employees, who are less likely to have a dedicated home working space, were hit hardest.
- Home working requires space which means those sharing flats or houses were often struggling with difficult conditions such as poor internet access, lack of quiet work space and suitable equipment.
- Opportunities for informal teaching and learning and networking are lost when working remotely. This affects younger workers most, and worries some managers.
- Many young and early or mid-career level workers are frustrated that those making the decisions (senior management/directors) have little or no understanding of their situation.
Some questions raised by the headline findings
- How will companies ensure new working arrangements do not discriminate against people with unsuitable accommodation? There are important diversity and inclusion issues at stake.
- How will companies give staff earlier in their careers the support they need to learn, develop and progress?
- How will companies fulfil their responsibilities to monitor and safeguard the health and safety of all their staff?
Join the conversation
The survey responses shine a light on what most respondents regarded as good practice during lockdown. Our task now is to try to define what best practice means in terms of transitioning to different mixes of remote and office-based working in a way that works for everyone.
NUJ Oxford, OPuS and SYP aim to open up an inclusive, national conversation about how those of us who work in publishing want to shape the home/office balance in the future.
More than 300 people have already signed up to take part in this discussion and we’re keen to include many more.
Please contact us on BeyondLockdown1@gmail.com to get involved.