Why remote working is the key to diversity

Feb 23, 2017

Many areas of publishing are anxious to innovate and, quite rightly, want to increase the diversity of their workforce. Innovation usually focuses on solutions to improve publishing’s outputs—the revenue-generating products and services which pay the bills. But the tendrils of innovation should also reach out to address the needs of that most crucial of inputs—the people who make things happen.

One way to “walk the walk” and enable diversity—not just hand-wring, produce endless virtue-signalling tweets and give nice talks—is to innovate your recruitment and working practices by offering many more remote-working opportunities. By doing so you will open-up a route to employment which immediately reaches out into every corner of the country and into every community. Why fish from a pool of talent when you can trawl the deeper ocean? As someone who spent 3 years remote-working for a US publisher I can say, from real experience, that it can work—and be very effective.

It does not require penetrating insight to realize that a great deal of UK publishing activity is clustered around a small number of key locations. To some, it may sound heretical to suggest that not everyone actually wants, or is able, to work in any of the handful of locations into which so much of our publishing activity has coalesced. Family commitments, disability or just the sheer expense means that many highly employable and talented people simply cannot relocate or commute. The crippling cost of housing, or the UK’s grotesquely expensive rail fares, are, for many, huge barriers to employment within the centres of our publishing universe.

But you have to “go where the work is,” right? But is that really true in this highly advanced economy—with access to cloud-based software systems, mobile technology and, where available, high-speed communications? Has our recruitment thinking, working patterns and management practices really failed to evolve at the speed of technology?

Why can’t more work go to where the employees are? Yes, of course, most publishers use a lot of freelancers and contractors who work remotely but not everyone wants to be self-employed—many just want a job with a regular income. Recruitment agencies can play a big part here by being pro-active and asking employers if they’ll consider remote working, and on what terms—you’ll almost certainly attract more candidates too.

Obviously, no one could sensibly claim that remote working is possible for all publishing jobs in every publisher, or that remote working has no impact on teams who are office-bound. Equally, not everyone wants to work remotely or has the temperament to do so. Without question, there are organizational, technical—and management culture—issues to consider: no-one should pretend there’s a secret panacea.

However, unless there’s a conscious effort to look into providing remote-working opportunities, to document and identify the challenges and pro-actively address them, then publishers will continue to limit their recruitment options and, perhaps, draw from an unnecessarily restricted subset of our national talent. Employers who enable their employees to work remotely may be surprised at the level of commitment and dedication received in return—if someone desperately wants that job but needs to work remotely, and is given the opportunity to do so, chances are they’ll move heaven and earth to do their very best work for that employer.

This is a guest post by Graham Douglas.
Graham Douglas has worked in academic and technical publishing for more than 20 years, having held positions which range from Senior Publisher through to roles in digital/print production, programming and software development. He is currently an independent contractor.

Email: graham.douglas@readytext.co.uk
Website: https://www.readytext.co.uk
Twitter: @publishergeek