Following a survey of its workforce over the last few weeks gauging employee experience with working remotely and reaction to the prospect of returning to its Manhattan offices, Penguin Random House US has confirmed that it will not return to its offices "until sometime next year," CEO Madeline McIntosh wrote in a letter to staff, adding that the publisher will return "when it’s safe and when it’s practical," whenever that may be.
"Clearly, we miss being together and would want to quickly get back to the offices if it meant we could safely return to in-person meetings and conversations. But just as clearly, most of us feel that the current state of virus risk means that it would not be comfortable or responsible to come back together in our office spaces anytime soon," McIntosh wrote. "On the bright side, the vast majority report that, overall, working remotely is going quite well, and some are feeling they prefer it as a long-term solution. Finally, there are some areas and functions where colleagues are reporting ongoing pain points related to technology and infrastructure that have yet to be solved."
Items addressed in McIntosh's note included technology, post-pandemic locational flexibility, and warehouse safety. McIntosh stressed that, in order to help those working remotely who reported that they did not have the necessary technology to perform their jobs as normal, the company would be "stepping up our efforts and investing in solutions for as many of those pain points as we can." In addition, with a portion of the publisher's workforce temporarily or permanently relocated or considering such moves, McIntosh said "a guiding theme going forward will be flexibility, as it relates to both schedules and geography, adding that "that flexibility will apply even after the pandemic has past." And, adding that the protocols in place at the company's warehouses have enabled employees to work "successfully and safely," McIntosh said that those protocols will remain in place "with an ongoing maximum emphasis" on worker safety.
"As far as our business goes, I’m confident this fall will be a successful one," McIntosh wrote. "Thanks to your efforts, we’ve made it through an extraordinary string of challenges and are entering the biggest retail season in great shape. There are new (and lingering) hurdles ahead, but I believe that with the new books we’re releasing, the power of our backlist, and the resilience shown by our colleagues, our infrastructure, and our readers, our business will thrive."
PRH's decision marks the third of the Big Five New York trade houses that now have decided to not bring back employees to their Manhattan offices in a meaningful way until 2021. In PW's most recent survey of publishers, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster said their offices will not officially open until next year.