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March 13, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:02am

Coronavirus: FT and Conde Nast staff to work from home but Mail and Mirror journalists to stay in office

By Freddy Mayhew

The Financial Times and Vogue publisher Conde Nast Britain have told staff to work from home in efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Desks at the FT’s main office in Bracken House, central London, are empty today (pictured) ahead of the entire group moving to a working from home “at scale” approach from Monday “until further notice”.

It comes just days after an employee showed symptoms of the virus, resulting in a floor of the building being deep cleaned.

According to the NHS, symptoms of coronavirus include a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath.

The Government’s chief medical and science officers said yesterday that there could up up to 10,000 cases of coronavirus in the UK, although only a few hundred had been confirmed with ten deaths so far.

Addressing the nation yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said coronavirus was “the worst public health crisis for a generation”.

In a message to staff, the FT said it wanted to “limit the number of people using the building for the next few weeks”.

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“This curtailment will help us manage the building, reducing the need for temporary shut-downs and the likelihood of exposure to illness for those who absolutely need to come in,” it added.

The FT said it is “confident that most functions are able to work remotely to a satisfactory degree” and would review its approach on a weekly basis.

At Vogue House, home to British Vogue, GQ, Tatler, Wired and other titles published by Conde Nast Britain, staff have been asked to work from home today until the end of the month.

The building, near Oxford Circus, central London, will remain open to a “skeleton staff” only where necessary.

Managing director Albert Read told staff the decision had been taken “based on Covid-19 developments” and is a “precautionary measure”.

Mail and Metro titles

DMG Media, publisher of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Mail Online and Metro titles, has also taken extra steps in responding to the pandemic.

Vulnerable staff – those who are pregnant or with pre-existing medical conditions – will be allowed to work from home from Monday. So too will marketing, administration, finance and other support staff.

But editorial staff are still expected to come into its office in Kensington.

“This will allow those of our colleagues, primarily editorial, who are still required to work from Northcliffe House to be spread more widely,” it said in a message to staff.

Also with immediate effect, all corporate entertaining has been suspended and staff have been asked to “seriously consider” whether attending social events is “strictly necessary”.

All meetings, both internal and external, where possible are to be conducted by video call or on the phone.

Northcliffe House will be closed to visitors, except in exceptional circumstances, and will not accept personal deliveries.

“It is impossible to legislate for every eventuality as the situation and official advice is fast-changing,” staff were told.

“We must assume heightened level of absences in the coming weeks because of illness/self-isolation, etc.

“This will require that as many of our employees as possible are available.”

As a result new holiday requests will not be automatically approved, although staff can roll over unused holiday into next year.

They have also been advised not to travel abroad.

“As the situation in Italy and the travel ban imposed by the US on continental Europe show, the global position is moving so fast that official government advice is no longer adequate enough to safeguard our staff.

“We therefore strongly advise AGAINST travelling anywhere abroad.

“Many areas may not be categorised as at risk now, but it is possible they will be by the time you get back, which will necessitate a 14-day quarantine – assuming of course you can get back.”

Staff who ignore the Mail’s advice and “as a direct result are unable to return to the UK and work as usual” will have this treated as unpaid leave or holiday, they were told.

Mirror, Express and Star

Reach, publisher of the Mirror, Express and Star newspapers has said it is preparing and revising its contingency plans “as the situation develops”.

A message to staff today from chief executive Jim Mullen said there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the business, but staff were reminded to self-isolate for seven days if they have symptoms, per government advice.

“We know our role as trusted source of news in times of crisis,” said Mullen. “We know people are searching for information and advice.

“Our whole purpose is about getting news to our readers and customers no matter what the circumstances we face.”

Mullen said responding to the virus is the executive team’s priority.

This included planning alternative work arrangements in case offices need to be closed and restricting non-essential international travel.

“We are also working through cover should a significant number of employees are unable to work due to ANY IMPACT OF SELF ISOLATING,” said Mullen.

He added: “We are not at the peak yet and it is important that reactions and actions are proportionate and timely. This is going to be with us for a while.

“We continue to test and strengthen our business continuity plans which will ensure we are in a good space when it peaks.”

Signing off his message to staff, Mullen said: “I still believe our future is bright, yes we have some challenges to navigate through but so has every generation that has been responsible for our titles and brands through our history.

“This is our challenge and I know that we have the team that can do this.”

Tortoise suspends ‘Thinkins’

Elsewhere, Tortoise has suspended its “Thinkins”, meetings where members share their thoughts on topics, over the coronavirus.

In a note to members, the slow news outfit said it would postpone Thinkins for four weeks, which includes its first anniversary party.

A number of news outfits have made their coronavirus content free to access, in the spirit of sharing key public health information.

Healthcare trade title the Health Service Journal has said its coronavirus coverage will be free to view.

Reuters is also offering key Covid-19 briefings from the World Health Organisation to media customers free of charge within its Connect service.

Sue Brooks, head of agency strategy for Reuters, said: “Reuters fuels the news ecosystem. As such, our role is even more important during times of global uncertainty, when misinformation abounds.

“We hope that by offering our media clients free, broadcast-quality footage from arguably the most important briefings in the world right now, we are helping them deliver trusted, timely information to their audiences.”

Picture: FT/Finola McDonnell/Twitter

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