With the outbreak of COVID-19, the workforce entered a new era. Overnight, bustling offices became a public health risk, and technology transformed from a helpful resource to an essential component of daily operations. Whiteboards and file cabinets were replaced by shared Google Drives, communication moved from the conference room to Zoom — and company culture from the watercooler to Slack.
Two years later, the global reliance on remote work is showing no sign of declining. Forbes reports, “25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023.”
But what about the industries that necessitate some kind of in-person interaction? For many, a hybrid work-from-home model has become an increasingly popular solution.
What is a hybrid work model?
As the name suggests, a hybrid work model is one that combines different work environments — in this case, remote and in-office working.
Adopting a hybrid work model can be challenging for all types of businesses — especially a content-intensive, interactive business like journalism. To illustrate the best practices and essential tools businesses should implement for successful remote working, let’s take a deep dive into how journalism leverages a hybrid environment to maintain daily operations during the pandemic and beyond.
Navigating journalism’s new normal
According to a recent Reuters study of 132 global leaders in journalism, 89% of respondents stated they were committed to developing a new hybrid work model — and 34% had already started implementing one. By comparison, only 9% of respondents said they would try to return to pre-pandemic working conditions. They also found new hires often request remote working environments.
Another Reuters report published in November 2021 predicted “Over the next year we can expect most employees to spend two to three days a week in the office and the rest at home.” Editor and Publisher cites The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Seattle Times as among those media companies planning to implement a hybrid work model in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
What you need for a hybrid working environment
To ensure the success of a hybrid work model, certain tools and processes are required. Here’s what the top newsrooms are implementing in their hybrid work plans:
- Reduced office space — With fewer employees on site and limits on large group gatherings, the need for office space is significantly reduced. Media companies transitioning to a hybrid work model are downsizing newsrooms as the hub of daily operations shifts to home offices, and what office space remains is being restructured to meet the demands of a socially-distanced workplace.
- Communication tools — Clear, integrated communication is an essential requirement for any successful operation, but it is especially important in the business of information. In a hybrid workplace, channel-driven tools enable journalists to communicate with the same speed and efficacy as they would in person, with the added benefit of a real-time record of internal communications.
- Video platforms — From briefs and pitches to interviews and broadcasts, reliable video tools are a critical component of hybrid journalism. Reuters reports the top video platforms used in newsrooms are: Microsoft Teams (38%), Google Meet (36%), and Zoom (21%).
- Content management systems — Google Suite is great for start-ups and small businesses, but in a content-driven industry like journalism, a central CMS is a must. With a good CMS, staff can track content production from pitch to publication while working remotely.
Remote work platforms and pitfalls
Two years into the pandemic, there’s a technological solution to most remote work problems. From the usual suspects like Slack and Zoom to industry-specific tools and custom apps, robust platforms have become a critical component of remote operations.
But unfortunately, not all platforms play nice. The more apps an operation uses, the more integration is required. And if that integration isn’t seamless, things are bound to slip through the cracks — which can have serious repercussions in journalism.
To avoid the risks posed by disparate apps, savvy newsrooms have implemented a single web- and mobile-based application. A CMS specifically designed to manage the editorial workflow from story planning to final publishing can be especially beneficial.
Benefits of remote work
With a strategic plan and the right tools, remote working can actually increase operational success — and the field of journalism is no exception. Here are some common benefits journalists have reported since working remotely:
- Opportunities for more diversity — In a hybrid work environment, the hiring pool is no longer restricted by geography. Candidates can be judged on talent instead of proximity, and relocation is no longer a requirement. This results in a broader candidate pool and a more diversified workforce.
- Increased efficiency — A Reuters study found 70% of surveyed journalists considered hybrid working more efficient, concluding: “Online meetings held during enforced remote working have often been shorter and more business-like, while reduced commuting time has freed up time for more productive work.”
- Improved employee well-being — 61% of respondents in the same Reuters study found remote working improved employees’ well-being. That said, other respondents voiced concerns about work-from-home burnout. To combat feelings of isolation while working remotely, UK publisher Reach has implemented employee social events like book clubs and cook-alongs, and provides a free subscription to Headspace, a mindfulness and mental wellbeing app (Reuters). Organizations looking to mitigate employee burnout and isolation would be wise to follow suit.
Challenges of remote work
Of course, there are some undeniable challenges to remote journalism. Nearly half (48%) of Reuters survey respondents felt remote work had a negative impact on creativity, while 43% found communication had also worsened.
A central operational hub can go a long way in combating these challenges. Software designed with workflow orchestration in mind allows remote employees to monitor and manage the complete editorial process and communicate changes in real-time. This not only empowers employees, it cuts down on miscommunication. A CMS with an advanced asset management feature also supplies journalists with lightning-fast searching and sourcing — freeing up more time for creative activities like brainstorming and pitching.
The future of work is hybrid
Remote work might have been born of COVID-19, but the hybrid workplace is poised to outlast the pandemic thanks to benefits like increased employee efficiency and access to a broader talent pool. To offset the downside of distributed teamwork, such as poor communication and reduced creativity, newsrooms are turning to specialized tools — such as a cloud-based CMS to serve as a central editorial hub.
For a real-life example of how a dedicated remote work platform can improve workflow and communication for hybrid workers, check out the story of how Canadian daily Le Devoir used a rapid rollout of Eidosmedia's Swing application to move its staff out of the newsroom during the pandemic, without missing a beat.