With the Delta variant continuing to spread throughout the U.S., many media companies are reconsidering the planned mandatory returns to the office, with many originally targeting September. For some companies, including The New York Times, unions played a role in persuading execs to push back a return due to safety concerns around COVID-19.
Whenever a widespread mandatory return does happen in media, it could be a hybrid model split between the office and remote working. In the meantime, for a number of media companies open on a voluntary basis, employers are requiring staffers provide proof of vaccine.
Here’s what 10 media companies are planning:
The publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker is aiming to bring New York-based employees back to the office in early October using a mix of fully on-site and hybrid approaches, with a majority of employees coming into the office three days a week. For now, its U.S offices remain open for use on a voluntary basis for vaccinated employees and it is continuing to monitor the situation closely.
As previously reported by WWD in July, Condé Nast’s owner Advance Publications paid its rent in May and June (thought to be around $2.4 million per month) for its headquarters at One World Trade Center, but it was still withholding approximately $9.6 million of rent payments for January through April 2021 as it continued to try to negotiate a better rate and reduce space. It paid that bill in full in August.
It’s opening its office on a voluntary basis beginning Sept. 13, a week later than originally planned, for any employees who want to return on a voluntary basis. It has not set a date for a mandatory return.
“As the situation remains fluid, we continue to take a careful and deliberate approach to our planning by monitoring public health information and guidance. The voluntary return commences a week later than originally planned in order to adjust our preparations to changing circumstances,” publisher Almar Latour said in a memo to staffers.
For unvaccinated staffers wanting to return to the office, they will need to get tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis and wear masks at all times. The office layout has changed to allow for space between workstations, reducing the capacity for desk use and meeting rooms.
The New York Times
A spokesman for the newspaper said: “In light of the evolution of the virus, including new trends around the Delta variant, and the updated guidance from the CDC on masking, we have decided to push out our plans for a full return at this time.”
Editor in chief Jessica Lessin was planning for her team to be back in the office this fall, but has suspended those plans due to Delta.
“Right now we’re still in a little bit of wait-and-see and I think hopefully when we’re further along and in progress against this thing we’ll be back to most people spending most days in the office while also having options for people to work remotely, which we’ve always had as well.”
With a full office return in mind at some point in the future and an expanding team, The Information has recently moved into a new space in New York City. “We’re probably one of the rare companies that has expanded our real estate footprint during COVID-19,” added Lessin.
For now, any employees wanting to use the office are able to do so as long as they have proof of vaccination, with exceptions around health and religious reasons.
The Washington Post
Fred Ryan, the publisher of The Washington Post, informed employees last week that its planned Oct. 18 return to the office would now be voluntary. Instead, the mandatory return-to-office date is Jan. 10. “Until this pandemic is fully behind us, the health, safety and well-being of Post employees will be first and foremost in our planning,” he said. In the meantime, vaccinated employees can use the D.C. office if they wish to do so.
“We’re not forcing anybody back until they’re ready. The office was too crowded before the pandemic,” Graydon Carter, founder and coeditor of Airmail, told WWD in a May interview, with a PR stating that the policy has not changed.
“There’s 30 people in [the office] and I think it would be better if we staggered them,” added Carter. “You go into an office not to work. You go into an office to talk to other people and plan things. Working now we’ve discovered is much better done at home. I know for me when I was at Vanity Fair I got all my work done before I got to the office. I got all my manuscripts edited, all my emails. When I went to the office it was to talk to writers and photographers, and editors. That’s what will happen here.”
Last month, CNN president Jeff Zucker informed staffers that the planned September return to the office would be postponed and the company is now mulling a mid-October return. “This was not an easy decision, and there is much to consider,” he said. In the same memo, Zucker also revealed that three unvaccinated staffers had been terminated for entering the office. “Let me be clear — we have a zero-tolerance policy on this,” he added.
The publisher of People and InStyle told WWD that all of its offices are open on a voluntary basis and is requiring that anyone entering a Meredith worksite be fully vaccinated. It postponed the second phase of its return-to-office plan and is now targeting Oct. 18, with a hybrid schedule of three days in the office and two days remotely.
“The health and well-being of Meredith employees continue to be our top priorities. In line with CDC guidance, we believe vaccination is the best way to protect our employees and communities. We understand this is a fluid situation and continue to monitor the data closely. Our policies will continue to be based on federal, state and local guidance,” said a company rep.
WWD understands the News Guild of New York, the union representing more than 200 unionized employees at Meredith, is in negotiations with the company and is trying to push back the return to office due to safety concerns, recently proposing a Jan. 4, 2022 return date.
Bustle Digital Group
Trisha Dearborn, chief people officer of Bustle Digital Group, whose brands include The Zoe Report, Gawker and Nylon, said the office will reopen after Labor Day on a voluntary basis to fully vaccinated staffers. “Given the fluidity of the situation, we continue to prioritize our employees’ needs, and at this time are offering team members the flexibility to be hybrid or remote. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and adjust our plans accordingly,” she added.
Penske Media Corp.
The publisher of WWD, Variety and Rolling Stone, has pushed back its mandatory return to the office, which will be a hybrid model, from September to December. Its offices are open on a voluntary basis, with proof of vaccine required. PMC is the parent company of WWD.
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