In response to a PW survey assessing the impact of Covid-19 on work policies, 93% of publishing employees said they have worked remotely at some point this year—and of those who have, 96% said they continue to do so. The survey was conducted online between November 10 and December 1 and drew 404 responses. (Responses were from individual employees and were not grouped by company.)

More than 97% of respondents in the New England and mid-Atlantic regions reported having worked from home at some point this year, and nearly all of those who have are still not back at their offices. In the southern and western U.S., 85% of respondents have worked from home, and more than 92% of those still are.

Employees at bigger publishers were more likely to work from home than those at smaller presses. Only 77% of respondents at publishers with annual revenue under $1 million said their companies had work-from-home options (and all respondents who worked from home at some point this year still are).

Among the large number of employees still working from home, 76% said their companies had not yet set firm return-to-the-office dates. New England publishers seemed to have a better idea of when employees will return—35% of respondents in the region said they have been given a return date—than those in the west, where only 11% of respondents said a date was fixed. By a wide margin, July 2021 was the month targeted for returns to offices, particularly for respondents in the mid-Atlantic.

Commuting on mass transit and proper social distancing protocols are the two biggest concerns employees expressed about returning to the office. Those concerns were cited by about 70% of all respondents. In the mid-Atlantic, which includes New York City and other major metropolitan areas, where subways and buses are key, 89% of respondents said traveling on mass transit is their biggest concern. In all other regions, office safety protocols are the number-one concern. Several respondents listed other reasons for a reluctance to return to the office, among them, losing a better work-life balance, the cost of commuting, and having moved to less expensive locations. Others noted that their offices have been permanently closed.

Other new measures

Working remotely was not the only way publishers reacted to Covid-19. Forty-five percent of respondents said their companies had instituted a hiring freeze, and 26% said their companies had laid people off. Salary cuts, furloughs, and reductions in hours were some of the other ways publishers looked to save money.

Publishers have partially restored some of the temporary cost-saving measures they took this spring. Sixty-one percent of employees whose companies instituted furloughs said those furloughs had ended, while 25% said furloughs were still intact (14% didn’t respond or weren’t sure). Salary cuts had been restored at companies where 72% of respondents work.

A hiring freeze is the tool most companies are still using to control costs, with 47% of respondents saying freezes are still in place at their companies. Only 29% said freezes have been lifted (24% didn’t respond or weren’t sure). Publishers seem to be split on restoring hours: 46% of respondents said hours are back to pre-pandemic levels, and an equal number said hours are still reduced.

Title counts and trade shows

Moving the launch of titles out of the spring in hopes that the effects of the pandemic would soon ease was a strategy used by many trade houses. Some publishers also ended up cutting titles: 30% of respondents said their companies had reduced their 2020 title counts, while another 30% said no cuts were made (the remaining 40% said their companies’ title counts stayed the same, or they weren’t sure). Publishers appear to be optimistic about 2021: 70% of respondents said their companies’ title counts in 2021 will remain the same or increase over those of 2020.

One of the industry staples disrupted by Covid-19 is conventions and trade shows, most of which have moved online or been canceled. Sixty-one percent of employees said they don’t know whether their companies planned to attend in-person trade shows in 2021, but 30% said their companies had no plans to do so. In addition, 56% of employees said they would feel uncomfortable attending in-person shows next year. Only 8% said they would have no worries about attending live events.

Editor’s note: The Covid-19 pandemic forced PW to cancel its annual salary and jobs survey this year. Instead, we sent out a smaller survey to asses the impact of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement on the publishing industry in 2020. The questionnaire was emailed to 7,023 PW subscribers who work at publishing companies. In the January 4 issue we will look at the diversity efforts publishers made in response to social justice movements.