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Publisher cites lockdown home working ‘benefits’ in plan to axe 11 offices

David KingA regional publisher has revealed a plan to close 11 newspaper offices – citing the increased amount of remote working during the coronavirus lockdown in its decision.

JPIMedia has announced a proposal to shut offices across the country after a recent survey revealed “many” of its staff expressed a preference for an increased element of home working.

The bases slated for closure are Alnwick, Aylesbury, Banbury, Berwick, Coleraine, Louth, Mansfield, Melton Mowbray, Selkirk, Stornoway and Sleaford.

JPIMedia has started a consultation process with the affected employees, and the company has declined to reveal at this stage which newsrooms they will now have access to should the plans go ahead.

In a message to staff this morning, chief executive David King said: “As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one of the changes faced by many of us has been the sudden switch to working from home. We have all had to adjust to this new way of working, some of us whilst juggling work, childcare and home-schooling, as well as a host of other changes to our normal lives.

“As I have said before, it is a testament to everyone’s hard work and resilience that we have been able to remain so productive during this time.

“As you know, we keep our property portfolio under review as a matter of course and over the last few years have reduced our footprint significantly, offering flexibility to our employees while still providing quality local news and information to our readers and audiences online.

“Like many businesses, the changes enforced by the current crisis have caused us to carefully consider both our approach to how we work and our future property requirements.

“As part of the overall JPIMedia property strategy launched last year, we were already pursuing a modest agile working approach in many parts of the business. The lockdown has shown us that remote working could be beneficial in many more areas of our business.”

David, pictured, went on to note that whereas historically the company had owned many of its offices, today it owns its print sites with all offices being rented from commercial landlords.

He added: “As a result of our latest review, we are proposing that certain offices will be closed or consolidated with others to continue the process of reducing the size of our property estate – and the costs associated with it.

“Aligning agile working with the review of our property portfolio will help us to better sustain jobs and titles for the longer term.

“The move to new premises over recent years has dramatically increased the overall quality of our office environments.

” I want to assure you that it is our intention to retain an office infrastructure, but one that better fits our needs going forward. That will mean that we occupy fewer offices and shrink the floor space at some locations, while continuing to retain our major sites.”

Both the Aylesbury and Banbury offices were among eight premises slated for closure last year as part of the company’s ongoing review of its property portfolio.

David concluded: “We continue to recognise the benefits of face to face contact with colleagues and others – sharing ideas and training amongst others.

“Retaining the benefits of this after the restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic recede will be important and we will look at ways in which regular face to face team meetings can be facilitated in order to support collaboration and innovation among colleagues.

“In our recent pulse survey many of you expressed your preference for an increased element of working from home, while some prefer to have access to an office.

“The interests of our employees are a key consideration in this process and we will begin consultations with staff today in the locations being considered for closure.”

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