News & Politics

Politico Tells Employees They Should Plan to Work From Home at Least Through Next Summer

The company also says it has established a $500,000 emergency relief fund for its employees.

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Politico will “shift to working from home indefinitely” rather than set an arbitrary target date to return to the office, the Rosslyn-based news organization told employees in a memo Wednesday.

This past July, Politico honcho Robert Allbritton shared with employees what he called the “uncomfortable truth that the fundamental elements of living in a pandemic are not likely to change until we achieve herd immunity, or find a vaccine or effective therapeutic treatment for COVID-19.”

That hasn’t changed, company CEO Patrick Steel wrote in Wednesday’s memo, and as none of those things seem imminent, “you should plan for the first half of 2021 accordingly.” Politico will provide 60 days’ notice before anyone needs to come back in.

For some employees, work from home may become permanent: “There may be some departments or positions that do not require a regular physical presence in our offices and are better suited to working remotely full-time,” Steel writes, saying he has “asked our department heads to rethink how their team operates and how to maximize the use of our physical workspaces.”

Politico also offers employees resources to help them get through the pandemic, including a $500,000 fund from which employees can request support for child care expenses or home office needs. The company also offers virtual consultations from an ergonomist who will evaluate their home setup and recommend any necessary furniture upgrades. Also, it encourages employees to take mental health days.

Here’s the memo:

POLITICOs,

A historic election is upon us, and I know everyone is working tirelessly to cover every aspect of it, from the policies that are driving the discussion, to the campaign strategies, the fate of the relief package in Congress, to the impact that the pandemic is having on our politics, our economy, and our lives. Though I know you are hard at work—and given that the holidays and new year will be here before we know it—I want to update you on how we will approach our work status in 2021 and outline several important new support structures that we are establishing to help you and your families.

WORK AT HOME EXTENDED 

Over the last 7 months, each of you has stepped up in incredible ways to overcome significant challenges. It has not been easy to transform our homes into a functional workplace. It has not been easy to be separated physically from colleagues and friends. It has not been easy to have our familial and personal lives turned upside down by the life circumstances that we have been dealt. Despite all of these obstacles, each of you has relentlessly contributed to our mission, ensuring that POLITICO has delivered for our readers and Pro/AgencyIQ subscribers at a time when reliable information, nonpartisan journalism, and crucial analysis has never been more needed.

As Robert astutely observed over the summer, the fundamental elements of living in a pandemic are not likely to change until herd immunity is achieved, a vaccine is widely distributed, or there is a more effective therapeutic treatment for the virus. That remains unchanged, and in fact, new challenges have arisen. Europe is facing a second wave of the virus, forcing some countries to put new restrictions in place in an effort to avoid returning to lockdowns. Stateside, confirmed cases of the virus are on the rise, putting a strain on hospitals as we approach the colder months. There are continued challenges with public transportation and stops and starts around schooling for our kids.

While much uncertainty remains in the world around us, here is what we do know:

  1. We are not going to return to our physical offices in any significant way until it is safe to do so.
  2. As of now, it seems unlikely that the ongoing challenges outlined above will change in the first half of next year.
  3. Covid-19 has changed the way that we will work forever. While this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for us to think about the type of workplace we want to have. While we will always have a robust physical newsroom and office space, and our goal is to return when safe to do so, there may be some departments or positions that do not require a regular physical presence in our offices and are better suited to working remotely full-time. As such, I have asked our department heads to rethink how their team operates and how to maximize the use of our physical workspaces. We will use the next several months to flush out these concepts and evolve our approach to work.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  From day one of this pandemic, our guiding principle has been to ensure your health and safety. That will never change. In addition, challenges with schooling and the complexities and safety of transportation will always weigh heavily on our decision making. As such, we approach an eventual return to our offices with the goal of providing maximum flexibility for you and your family. Given these knowns and unknowns outlined above, rather than picking an arbitrary return date in June, July, August—or beyond, we will instead shift to working from home indefinitely and will provide AT LEAST 60 DAYS NOTICE  before anyone is expected to return to their office workspace. Per #2 above, we do not anticipate that happening anytime soon, and as such, you should plan for the first half of 2021 accordingly.

USE OF OUR OFFICES 

Our core journalistic and business functions have adjusted well to working remotely, and our offices have remained open for those who have needed and chosen to come in to do their jobs. This will continue to be the case—if you need to come into the office, you can, but if you can perform your work remotely, you should. There may be circumstances when some leaders choose to use the office for either a journalistic or business purpose that cannot be done remotely or that can be done far more effectively using one of our workspaces. For example, our Live team has safely utilized the office on occasion to produce our virtual events. To ensure that we are protecting them—and any of you who may want to use the office—please be sure to follow our existing protocols before working from one of the offices:

  1. All employees must send a note to TP-Facilities indicating the need to enter the office, in advance of arrival. Please cc: your manager on the note.
  2. Before entering our offices, please ensure to follow necessary precautions as recommended by the CDC: Confirm that you are symptom free (including no fever), have not been in contact with a confirmed case of Covid-19, and that you (or someone you have been in contact with) is not awaiting confirmation from a Covid-19 test in the last 14 days.
  3. Upon arrival, you must swipe your key fob or Kastle app (in Rosslyn) to enter the office.
  4. While in the office, all individuals (employees, contractors, vendors) must wear a face mask at all times.
  5. After using any common spaces, all employees are required to wipe down countertops/surfaces that you’ve touched with disinfectant sanitizing wipes that are available throughout the office.

EMPLOYEE SUPPORT

It has been a long year. We are working harder, for longer hours while juggling new responsibilities at home and trying to maintain some semblance of work-life balance. For the past seven months, we’ve said it over and over – please make sure to take care of yourselves, mentally and physically. WE MEAN IT! It is essential to prioritize your well-being, especially now as we head into the winter season. Among other initiatives, we are establishing a $500,000 Covid Emergency fund to help support you with pandemic related challenges from child care to home office needs as we work together to get through the winter months. Traci and the Talent team will provide additional details on that shortly. Stay tuned. We encourage you to take advantage of the fund and the other support programs outline below:

  1. Pandemic Employee Relief Fund:  Employees can request support from the fund for emergency child care, home office needs, or other work-related pandemic needs. Stay tuned for additional information to come from the Talent team that will provide details on how you can utilize the relief fund.
  2. Virtual Ergonomic Assessments for Home Offices/Workspaces:  Employees have the opportunity to receive a free individual ergonomic assessment of their home office/workspace as a part of our partnership with CIGNA. During the video session, you can meet with experts who are trained to evaluate any injury and provide helpful guidance about treatment plans and ways to up your workspace to mitigate injury and pain. If the result of that assessment indicates the need for different office furniture or equipment for your home office, you may request funds from the Employee Relief Fund. More information, including links to sign up, will be forthcoming from POLITICO Wellness.
  3. Mental Health Days:  Employees are strongly encouraged to use our flexible vacation policy to take mental health days every so often as needed to fully unplug, relax, and recharge. Managers will look for opportunities to give their teams time off simultaneously in order to maximize the ability to recharge.
  4. POLITICO Parents Network:  We have enjoyed seeing our POLITICO parents connect and support each other on the #remotewithkids Slack channel. To better support our parents, and ensure these connections continue, we are excited to launch the POLITICO Parents Network. In addition to the Slack channel already in use, we have started a library of resources for parents in Box and we encourage you all to contribute to this library with resources you have found helpful. Look out for more programming specifically for POLITICO Parents coming soon as well!
  5. POLITI-Kids:  In addition to the fantastic newsletter the POLITI-Kids team sends out every week, the team has been hard at work planning activities for our mini POLITICOs and their parents to join. We hosted a cooking class this week (you can find the recording here) and will have a virtual Halloween Parade on October 30. More to come over the next few months.

Thank you for your strength and resilience. And of course thank you for all that you do for POLITICO. If you have any questions, please reach out to your manager and your partner on the Talent team.

Best, Patrick

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.