Drama Continues Inside the Washington Post Newsroom

From a story on politico.com by Adam Wren headlined “Post Covid at the Post”:

Drama continues to flare up inside the Washington Post newsroom, this time over the publication’s policy that staff spend at least three days a week at the office, Max Tani emails.

Internally, there has been a fair bit of rumbling about the policy, which staff view as inflexible and unappreciative of two realities: that the country still is dealing with the pandemic and that people have grown accustomed to, and good at, working remotely.

But the paper’s management has been insistent, so much so that there were rumors circulating last week among some staff that workers would potentially risk being fired if they didn’t show up the requisite three days. Those fears were heightened earlier this summer when the paper sent an email to staff saying a refusal to return to work could result in “disciplinary action.” The paper’s union has opposed the mandatory return to office for three days a week, filing an unfair labor practice complaint over the company’s refusal to bargain over RTO, and saying that many journalists benefit from the remote work flexibility amid the ongoing pandemic.

Crafting a smooth return-to-work policy has been an issue that every newsroom is grappling with. But in a clear sign that it’s been a particular powder keg for the Post, the paper’s top editor, Sally Buzbee, sent an email to many managers this morning trying to provide additional clarity to the policy.

Titled “return to office,” the email says that staff “needs consistent communication from all of us … on the issue of return-to-office” as well as “inspiration and optimism.”

“Be clear about our policy,” Buzbee wrote. “Everyone is expected to be in the office 3 days a week, except those employees with an official exemption, with an official designation of remote work/or remote location, or employees on leave.”

Reminding recipients once more that “optimism is also key,” Buzbee outlined the exemptions that would be allowed to the three-day-a-week policy. They include: those with company permission to work remotely full time, those whose jobs are best done out of the office, those with disability of leave exemptions, those whose bosses have provided them health exemptions, those who work overnight shifts when public transportation isn’t available and those who are sick or have been notified they have Covid.

Parents of children under the age of 5 who are not vaccinated are also exempted. But, Buzbee notes, that exemption may be discontinued because vaccines are now available to that cohort.

Seeming to recognize that this might not fly among the Covid-anxious, Buzbee added a line.

“If employees have concerns about office density, remind them that the office has fewer people on Mondays and Fridays,” she wrote.

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