The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that some of the assumptions we had about work were wrong. Across many industries, work had a dedicated place: the office. But lockdowns and enforced remote working made many realise that another way was possible, accelerating a quest by employees for flexibility and increased autonomy. In 2021, senior news industry leaders told us that they – and their organisations – were on board with the shift to hybrid and flexible working (Cherubini et al. 2021).
One year on, have newsrooms really transformed as a result of the shift initiated during the pandemic? Has the news industry truly embraced flexible and hybrid working? This report, which is based on a survey of 136 senior industry leaders from 39 countries and a series of in-depth interviews, tries to answer these questions and take stock of the status of the newsroom as a workplace and its future.
Among other things, we find that:
News organisations have embraced the shift, with 61% of the survey respondents saying that their organisation has largely implemented hybrid and flexible working with new rules in place for staff. The majority of leaders who participated in the survey (57%) think their organisations are doing a good job with it. Even so, 20% of survey respondents report that while their organisations are making some changes, they largely want to return to a pre-pandemic working model.
The most common approach, indicated by 49% of the survey respondents, sees staff required to be in the office for a compulsory minimum number of days a week/month. A further 29% of respondents indicated that their organisations follow a more voluntary approach, in which staff are expected to be in the office a minimum number of days of their choice.
Having explicit rules, setting clear expectations and communicating them transparently – and, most of all, articulating the purpose of going to the office and making sure that the benefit of doing so is clear – helps when implementing flexible working models. But the jury is still out on whether employees actually want to be back in the office, with 39% of survey respondents reporting that their newsrooms are struggling to get people back, while 38% say they are not struggling.
The office as a physical space has also changed: 47% of newsroom leaders said their organisations have already redesigned the office space to better accommodate hybrid working, with another 27% saying they are considering doing so. Almost one-third (31%) report that their organisation has already reduced their office premises.
Almost half of survey respondents (49%) think that hybrid and flexible working has made hiring and retaining talent much or somewhat easier, while 65% think that hybrid and flexible working could increase their ability to hire diverse talent and have a positive impact on their diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.
Looking at diversity, most of our respondents think their organisations are doing a good job with gender diversity (79%), but less so when it comes to ethnic diversity (47%), diversity from less-advantaged backgrounds (30%), and political diversity (27%).
One-third (33%) of the leaders who participated in the survey indicated that gender diversity has been the single most important priority for their news organisations to change, while another 32% indicated it was ethnic diversity.
Getting hybrid and flexible working right is not just about having clear rules; persuading people back to the office requires more attention and intentional planning from management. It’s about articulating what the purpose of the office and working together is. One of the effects of the pandemic and hybrid working on newsroom culture that newsroom leaders worry about is a mounting sense of disconnect among employees, with one-third (36%) of survey respondents believing that hybrid and flexible working has weakened the sense of belonging to the organisation.
Among other things, our respondents say that implementing new working models has also increased the pressure on managers, and particularly middle managers, who are left to be the conduit between leadership priorities and employees’ requirements and expectations.
Beyond hybrid and flexible working, investing in talent and improving diversity remain two fundamental aspects the industry needs to focus on. Alongside concentrating on finding the right diverse talent that reflects the audiences they serve, news organisations will also need to make sure they establish a sense of connection and shared purpose with their staff, in order to retain them and build an inclusive workplace culture.
Beyond implementing specific initiatives, often focused on broadening the talent pipeline, the road to transforming newsrooms into a diverse and inclusive place is still long.
This report is based on a survey of a strategic sample of news industry leaders, completed between 27 September and 28 October 2022, and it is complemented by seven in-depth interviews. Respondents include editors-in-chief or executive editors, CEOs, and managing editors, as well as other senior positions in editorial, talent development, and commercial. The sample includes individuals working in a wide range of different companies with a print, magazine, broadcast, and news agency background, as well as digital-born news organisations. The majority of the respondents are from the Global North, and most of them work in mid-size and large organisations; our results thus do not capture the often very different situations faced by small organisations and those operating in poor and/or authoritarian countries. It is not a representative sample and it is not a random sample, and, therefore, it does not allow for generalisation to the industry at large. Because of the strategic sample we rely on, direct year-to-year comparisons of specific figures are not possible, although the data do help us identify overall patterns. More details of the methodology and make-up of the sample are provided in the section at the end of the report.
1 Hybrid and flexible working are here to stay ↑
1.1 Newsrooms have embraced the shift to hybrid and flexible working
Last year, a newsroom leader who participated in the Changing Newsrooms 2021 survey (Cherubini et al. 2021) described the moment as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to reshape newsrooms and the ways we work. The COVID-19 pandemic had altered people’s lives, and one of the consequences was that many businesses, including the news industry, were first forced to move many of their staff to remote working, and then instituted a hybrid set-up, with some employees working from home and some from the office. In the 2021 study, which we conducted between September and October 2021, most of the news leaders who participated (79%) had declared their organisations were on board with the shift to hybrid and flexible working, and even more – 89% of the respondents – said they were themselves committed to it.
One year on, have newsrooms really transformed as a result of a shift initiated during the pandemic? And has the news industry truly adopted flexible and hybrid working?
According to this year’s survey, news organisations have embraced the shift to a hybrid and flexible working model. Sixty-one per cent of the survey respondents say that their organisations have largely implemented hybrid and flexible working, with new rules in place for staff.
An additional 17% said their organisations want to implement a new model, but they are still working out how to best do it. However, 20% of newsroom leaders who participated in the survey indicated that, while their organisations are making some changes, they largely want to return to a pre-pandemic working model.
Full Article: https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/changing-newsrooms-2022-media-leaders-embrace-hybrid-work-despite-challenges