In a letter citing the “limitations” of working from home and the “immense value in being together,” Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Piestch revealed plans for staff to return to work at all HBG U.S. offices this fall under a hybrid working model. Beginning in September, HBG will fully reopen its offices and all staff (with certain exceptions) will be required to work in-person at HBG offices at least two days a week. A more detailed plan outlining individual schedules will be released July 2.
In his letter to staff, Pietsch praised HBG staff “for all the effort you put into making remote work as successful as it has been.” He cited the benefits of working from home—avoiding the pressure and expense of commutes, spending more time with loved ones—as well as its limitations: the “awkwardness of communicating exclusively via screen, the need to schedule conversations rather than having a quick word, the pileup of work that takes longer than in the past, the physical and psychological stresses of isolation and long hours on video calls.”
Pietsch said that “the core” of the publishing business is “conveying enthusiasm for books,” and he emphasized that “enthusiasm travels a thousand times more immediately in person than across even the highest-definition screen. Face-to-face conversations are rich with nuance and immediacy that video chats cannot transmit.” He also cited the importance of collaboration and creativity, qualities he said thrive best “when we can work together in person.”
“We are a publishing company,” Pietsch wrote, “and that second word really matters: we are better and stronger in each other’s company, and we serve our authors and customers best when we have the full benefits of the close work we are able to do in person.”
Pietsch noted HBG’s plans for two days a week of in-office work is a minimum requirement and staff can work up to five days a week in-person if they choose. Sales reps, who worked fully from home before the pandemic, will continue to work 100% from home. In addition, HBG is implementing a new policy called Flex Four, which will give all HBG fulltime staff the opportunity for up to four weeks a year of fulltime work from home (with certain staff exceptions in facilities such as the warehouse). Staffers can apply for Flex Four and schedule the time with their supervisors.
In addition, Pietsch said that while HBG will not require employees to be vaccinated, “we strongly recommend that all HBG staff get vaccinated as soon as an FDA-authorized and/or approved COVID-19 vaccine is available to them.” All restrictions, he said, on the number of staffers allowed in the office will be lifted.
Pietsch emphasized that “we are implementing this arrangement as a six-month pilot program, and we will take stock at the end of March 2022 of how well our staff and our business have adapted. We are all learning as we go through this together, and we will make changes as our world and our business require.
“The goal of our new Hachette Hybrid model is to combine the energy and collaboration of in-person work with the flexibility and agility of remote work. As I said, we will assess the effectiveness of this new hybrid model over time, and I very much look forward to hearing thoughts from all colleagues about what’s working well and what can work even better,” Pietsch said.