The Washington Post‘s offices will remain closed until after Labor Day, Post publisher Fred Ryan told employees in a memo Thursday. The Post sent employees home March 11, and at the time, Ryan writes, “we thought it would be a matter of a few weeks before we could safely return.” The company is examining its options, but at the moment, “we have concerns that we cannot adequately safeguard the health of our employees with a return to office work.” At the moment, the plan for when employees do return to work will involve a “carefully staged operation beginning with a small fraction of our workforce based on social distancing, temperature checks, protective wear and testing as available.” Ryan also urges employees to take time off during the summer.
The Post isn’t the only DC-area media outlet that’s set a long horizon for a return to the office. Politico honcho Robert Allbritton told employees to expect to remain at home at least until July 1 in a memo last month, and he said the news org wouldn’t have physical space at any political conventions that might occur this summer. Memo:
To All Washington Post Employees,
When we made the decision to vacate our headquarters on March 10, we thought it would be a matter of a few weeks before we could safely return.
The severity of the COVID-19 virus, and the uncertainty of measures to safeguard our employees, has led us into our tenth week of remote operations.
During this time, all of you have done a superb job maintaining operations, even as most of us are working from home.
Since we began our remote work, a team of Post leaders has been giving serious thought to how and when we can safely return to our offices. We are all anxious to get back to the collegial environment of The Post and enjoy the chance to interact in person with our colleagues. However, in making this decision, the safety of our employees will be the determining factor. While there are certain steps that we can implement in our internal work spaces, there are risks associated with building common spaces, food services and transportation. I’ve asked that we use a “portal to portal” standard to examine all risks that Post employees might face from the moment they leave their home until they return at the end of their workday.
For the foreseeable future, we have concerns that we cannot adequately safeguard the health of our employees with a return to office work. We are constantly monitoring any factors that could change our thinking, however, at this point our plan is not to return to our offices until after Labor Day. While there are challenges to remote working that we would all like to conclude, the uncertain duration has also been a stress factor for many. Despite limited travel options, we would like you to enjoy time off throughout the summer.
When we do return to the office, it will be a carefully staged operation beginning with a small fraction of our workforce based on social distancing, temperature checks, protective wear and testing as available. We will also be mindful of the concerns of individual employees including dependent care, risk factors and personal concerns.
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, teams across The Washington Post have worked with diligence and commitment to our mission. This has involved long days and has often rolled into weekends. I strongly urge you to take time off—whether it is a day to catch up and refresh or more time to relax and rejuvenate despite the limitation of travel options. Wayne Connell will be following up with ideas and suggestions on how to make the most out of time off.
It is important that we all realize that the workload, disruption of routines, school closures and uncertainty of COVID-19 can take a significant toll on us all. Please know that The Post has free confidential counseling services available to you and your family through EAP. Please do not hesitate to take advantage of them.
I look forward to the day I can notify you that it is time to go “back to work” in the environment we know and enjoy. Until then, I hope you, your family and loved ones remain safe and well.