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Hachette UK has announced a pioneering split between home and office working to be phased in from 21 June when all lockdown restrictions in the UK are lifted.  Under the new model, staff will work two days from home and three in the office.  The transition period will start from 21 June and will take effect fully from 1 September.

The changes will apply to all levels of staff working in the company’s central London HQ as well as its national offices, with the exception of those working in distribution, IT operations and facilities, which are site-based roles by nature, or anyone with an existing contractual home working arrangement.  The bold move will be closely watched by the other major houses and may prove a watershed moment for working practices in the publishing industry.

In a long note to staff, Hatchette’s group Human Resources director Melanie Tansey said: “Having experienced the many business and personal benefits of home working directly over the past year (although we acknowledge these benefits were diluted for those of you home schooling or with other caring responsibilities during lockdown), we now see home working as a crucial component of our working model and it’s here to stay.

“Many of us have found that our more routine and transactional work, or quiet focused work, can be done more effectively from home. And despite the anxiety and circumstances of a global pandemic, we’ve appreciated seeing more of our kids or our partner, more time for exercise, time and money saved by not commuting, some of us have been able to better manage visible and invisible health conditions, and generally had an overall better work/life integration. That is why we’re transforming to a hybrid working model for the long term and believe it’s right for our business and for the wellbeing of all our staff.

“However, we are a creative business and being together in person has enormous benefits for us as colleagues and team members, and for our authors, illustrators, agents, translators and other industry partners. We need human contact and the swapping of ideas to thrive, and we’ll have more cohesion if, on balance, we are together in person more often than not. Creative meetings, brainstorming sessions, securing and building relationships with new authors, onboarding new employees, and providing sensitive feedback are just some examples of activities that lose some effectiveness when done remotely.”

However, she also acknowledged what has been missed through not all being together in the office.  “There’s a lot we have missed and are looking forward to having back in our working lives. Connection with some of our colleagues may have improved as remote meetings allow for more attendees and a more equal meeting experience for everyone, particularly those not based in London, but our working world and our range of connections become very narrow when we’re working from home.

“We’re excited to interact with team members in person again, we’ll rekindle old relationships with people who aren’t in our direct teams and whom we haven’t spoken to for a year, we’ll forge new connections with colleagues outside our direct teams, we’ll hold in-person creative brainstorming meetings, we’ll have lunch or a coffee with each other, we’ll be able to drop by our manager’s desk to resolve an issue quickly, we’ll have a casual conversation with someone we encounter in the hallway. All of these human moments don’t arise in the world of remote working.”