Recalibrating how we work apart

For many of us, we’ll never be in the same room at the same time again.

Covid may be receding, but having tasted the benefits of working from home, few are willing to plant themselves in a cubicle for 40-plus hours a week. Recruiters at my parent company tell me the No. 1 question they get from applicants is: “Can I work remotely?” If the answer’s no, many applicants bow out. In-person meetings, taking the new hire to lunch on her first day, and popping into a colleague’s office for a quick conversation are all as antiquated as the fax machine.

Despite these changes, communication and collaboration remain vital to a news organization’s success. For generations, that’s how colleagues in newsrooms performed the daily miracle of publishing the next edition. But now that we’re no longer together physically, we have to redefine how we lock arms virtually to do the work. For many of us, it will require fundamental changes to how we work, both collectively and individually.

Innovative newsrooms figured out long ago that collaborating across departments fuels growth. Restructuring meetings, reading in stakeholders, adopting product thinking — all of those helped dissolve silos between departments. In hindsight, that was pretty simple math, though. Get editorial to talk to sales, and you’re halfway home.

Now, thanks to hybrid work, the equation is much more complex. Physical location, comfort with asynchronous communications, and reading emotional cues without the benefit of face-to-face contact are but a few new variables to solve for if we’re to thrive in this complex new world.

In 2023, we’ll see a reconciliation around how we work — from communicating online to onboarding new employees, from managing tasks to celebrating milestones. A few newsrooms and other industries have already figured this out. Wily news orgs, taking a hard look at how they work, will follow suit and recast their processes and norms to accommodate our new normal. The stakes are too high to sit back and hope it works itself out.

Rodney Gibbs is the senior director of strategy and innovation for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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