[Image description: An open laptop with multiple people on screen. Next to the laptop is an empty tea cup, and there is a small plant in the background.]
We are now over a year into lockdown restrictions and working from home. It has been a tough year, but it has offered opportunities for positive change within publishing by reducing (some of) the barriers faced by people looking to enter the industry.
The quick switch to online environments for work and education proved that remote working and learning was a viable option long before the pandemic made it the only option. I am currently halfway through a master’s publishing degree at Edinburgh Napier University. This course, including work placements and industry events, has been completely online. Alongside this course, I am in the middle of a three-month internship with a small publisher based in Glasgow. Others in my course are completing work placements with companies based much further afield, opportunities they might not have had if they had to be in an office everyday. So far, everything we have done for our course or placements and internships, we have been able to do remotely.
The publishing industry tends to be centred in large, expensive cities like New York and London. Personally, as much as I want to work in publishing, I don’t want to move to London, and I’m not alone in that sentiment. London is a notoriously expensive city to live in, and most entry-level salaries don’t adequately cover the cost of living.
Remote working is not a new concept. For years, groups have been advocating for it as a way to remove barriers preventing people from entering education and jobs. Not everyone is able to move for a job or commute five days a week. People with disabilities, with care commitments, with health issues or any number of other reasons preventing a move or commute, have been prevented from applying for publishing jobs. Hopefully, now, this can change. We have demonstrated that the infrastructure exits to allow for the continuation of remote working.
That being said, despite the positives of working from home, there are downsides. It can be hard to get motivated when your workspace is right next to your bed. Conversely, it can also be hard to switch off from work at the end of the day. Not having an office environment can also lead to a sense of isolation and distance from coworkers.
Networking, in the age of COVID-19, has moved almost solely online too. This mode of networking is less formal, and the added layer of separation between people can mean that the overall process is less stressful. Similar to remote working, it allows for people to participate regardless of location.
Of course, moving completely online is not going to solve all the publishing industry’s problems. It comes with benefits and challenges. School and office closures in lockdown have brought attention to digital poverty and that not everyone has constant access to a working wifi connected device. A benefit of an office work environment is the provided access to wifi and technology that may not always be available at home.
There are many aspects of the past year that we all want to forget, but the main thing for us carry forward is an awareness and compassion for other people and individual circumstances. The transition to a virtual environment might not have removed barriers to the industry, but it has reduced them, and it is important that we do not allow them to rise again in new forms. The past year has only highlighted the differences in circumstances between people, and for the most part, the ease with which these can be accommodated, as long as we are willing to try.