In light of recent developments and social-distancing restrictions both globally and nationally, Books Ireland circulated a short survey to gauge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Irish publishers and their staff.
For some people, working from home (also known simply as WFH in case you were wondering!) was a relatively common occurrence but for others it is a brand new experience and brings some challenges. Just over 1 in 5 people surveyed reported they do not have all the equipment they need to work from home.
Who is working from home?
Responses were collected from workers across all areas of the industry from administrators (10%) to directors (28%). 60% of the respondents said that all staff members in their place of work were working from home, with 40% currently operating with some staff physically in the workplace.
When asked about the biggest challenges with working from home – the top three responses were:
- My physical workspace
- General anxiety about the impact of coronavirus on my life
- Communication with coworkers is harder
Advice and insights were offered for people who might be struggling with their new working environment, and highlights include these top 5 tips:
- Embrace the change and the possibilities that you didn’t think would have worked a couple of weeks ago.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. Routine is reassuring and also helps get the work done efficiently.
- Look after your back! don’t use the couch as your desk/chair because your back will suffer.
- Create a working environment that is separated from your home environment, so you can switch off at the end of the day and still ‘go home’.
- Don’t be tempted to rely on email for communication – arrange frequent catch-ups where you actually speak to each other and put these in the diary, not just as and when.
For direct sales, 97% of respondents sell publications on their website, and with respect to the current situation, their capacity to facilitate that service is now limited to 30% fulfilling online orders with no delay, 54% reporting that sales are possible but with potential delay, and 15% unable to sell directly at this time.
Changes to the way we work
The responses to the question about how your work may change in the current circumstances produced a wide range of attitudes from positive and negative to pragmatic.
- Ability to meet authors is hindered.
- Publicity falling through due to media focus on Covid-19 and rethinking a lot of marketing/or plans in that had been in place for spring.
- I’ll get more sleep. I have a significant commute so there are actually positives about working from home.
- I usually spend 90% of my working week driving or in meetings with customers, this has now changed to phone calls and emails.
- We may end up focusing more on online teaching and learning materials, which has only been a small part of our business previously.
- Move to longer-term stuff, as there’s little point printing books to send to shops that are closed.
- I think we’ll probably use skype a lot more. We’re based in a rural area so a lot of this stuff is not new to us and doesn’t feel that different.
The biggest impact
When asked about the biggest impact that COVID-19 will have on the publishing company where they work, the overwhelming response was in relation to the negative impact on sales and turnover due to closure of bookshops, reduction in tourists visiting Ireland and cancellation of events including launches. A number of people expressed concern about job losses. Amid the collective worry however, there was one slightly more hopeful response: “The recession will be a big challenge to get through, but we survived the last one so I believe we will be ok. I am most concerned at the moment about the health and safety of my loved ones and friends.” Thank you for the optimism whomever you are!
The full results of the survey are available below: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-7XVRKYRM7/
We hope this information is helpful, and also reassuring to know that you are not isolated in the current situation. If you would like to share your comments or experiences with your industry peers and colleagues in the thread below, please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org |@booksirelandmag
Publisher perspectives on COVID-19:
“All our books are now delayed until we get some idea of when shops will plan to open again. It has really shut us down as an industry at a time when people have more time than ever to read!” — Garry O’Sullivan, Columba Press.
“As a result of COVID 19 about 6 staff are working from home and the same number are in the office as they work in invoicing, despatch etc. I am surprised at how easy it is to manage projects remotely. We are each saving about 7.5 hours a week in commuting time, about 45 hours a week in total. I believe at the end of the crisis we will see some staff continuing to work from home some days of the week. It will certainly change the way we work in future. The other change is the increased emphasis on ebook publishing with the help of our colleagues at Casemate. We had slightly neglected this aspect of the business but it has suddenly become vital. We very much appreciate that Gill continue to process orders for those retailers still operating.” — Cecilia West, Messenger Publications.
“The staff of Cork University Press are working from home and routing our online book orders through GILL. We are able to keep the production of books for our Autumn 2020 season going.”— Mike Collins, Cork University Press.
“It has definitely been a strange month for everyone in light of COVID-19. However, in spite of the new landscape that we have found ourselves in, we are determined not to let the Corona Virus slow down our production process. We are still working hard in the background to make sure that we stay on track, as much as we can, with our publishing schedule for 2020. The support from our authors, editors and readers has been so overwhelming and an amazing support throughout all of this“. —Anthony Tierney, Four Courts Press.
‘The spread of Covid-19 in Ireland and the social distancing measures taken to curb that spread have had an enormous impact on our business. Our entire staff is now working from home, courier and postal routines have been disrupted, but most importantly, bookshops all around the world have closed down for the foreseeable. While some have e-commerce websites, most independent retailers do not, so our entire route to market for books is changing and the market itself (less prone to impulse purchases and discovering books through browsing or staff recommendation) has contracted. As a result, we have taken the decision to delay a number of new releases by at least a few months, which in turn will create a backlog of production and marketing work in the autumn season, and for books recently released, we are devising new (and untested) marketing plans. All of these inconveniences pale in comparison to the seriousness of the public health situation, which must be our first priority, but one thing is certain, when we emerge from this crisis, many new norms will have been established. Increase in routine home working may be one of those, and this will impact on the retail landscape, one in which the main street may play a much less prominent role than it did until recently.’—Mariel Deegan, New Island Books.
“COVID19: it’s a huge shock to everyone. Most staff are working from home, and we are finding new ways of having meetings and getting things done. The almost complete collapse in sales across all channels means having to plan with essentially no revenue for several months. Thankfully the value of reading, as an alternative to obsessing about the terrible news out there, is getting through. Our social media and website are very busy, and we are helping out all sorts of customers in new and innovative ways. Many authors who rely on events and performance for their income are having a terrible time, and we need good faith and solidarity like never before.“—Ivan O’Brien, The O’Brien Press