The news never sleeps, but for many of those at CNN who get the news out to the world, a return to offices and bureaus may not come until next year because of the coronavirus, network boss Jeff Zucker announced Wednesday.
“When you consider physical distancing requirements, we simply cannot put the same number of people back into our workspaces that were there before the pandemic,” the network’s president told staff in a memo sent out today. “So we need to make some tough decisions.
“As a result, we expect that the majority of you will not be able to return to our offices this calendar year,” he said stated in the correspondence (read it below). “What happens after that is still a question mark as well.”
Coming on the same day as the launch of CNN’s corporate cousin HBO Max, the ex-NBCUniversal CEO outlined for his employees that a minority of them could be back at their desks a little earlier.
As he already laid out in a previous memo last month, Zucker anticipates about 15% of CNN’s workforce to be back in the office on June 1. Again, as he said before, the exec emphasized that there’s an “early September timeline for another phase of returning employees” to CNN workplaces in Atlanta and New York.
That the outlet would be extra cautious in its approach to a physical return to work should come as no surprise. Anchors Brooke Baldwin and Chris Cuomo both were hit hard with the potentially fatal COVID-19, as have others at the AT&T-owned organization.
As of today, almost 101,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, and the nation still leads the world in confirmed cases with over 1.7 million reported.
Here’s the full memo:
I wanted to follow up on the note you received yesterday from WarnerMedia about the current thinking on returning to the office. As I have said before, our operations will primarily, across both news and sports, continue to work remotely throughout the summer. Of course, there are exceptions for some of our newsgathering, programming and production people at CNN; and, on the sports side, there will likely be changes when we have a sense of league schedules in the summer months. But for the most part, our operations will remain work from home.
As of Monday, we will have about 15 percent of our CNN workforce in the office. And a few more will return in the weeks ahead. Almost all of you in Sports and Studios continue to work from home.
But the next real milestone we are aiming for is an end of summer, early September timeline for another phase of returning employees. As you have heard me say before, there are a lot of considerations when it comes to bringing people back to our offices, first and foremost your health and safety. When you consider physical distancing requirements, we simply cannot put the same number of people back into our workspaces that were there before the pandemic. So we need to make some tough decisions.
As a result, we expect that the majority of you will not be able to return to our offices this calendar year. What happens after that is still a question mark as well. No doubt the world, and our understanding of the way COVID-19 continues to shape our lives and our work, will change countless times between now and then. But I know it is important as you all make decisions for your own lives and your families that you are equipped with the most honest and transparent information we can give you.
For many of you, this will be welcome news, as you have navigated a new world with new needs that are better accommodated from home. For others, this is likely tough news to hear, and I understand that. We intend to spend the summer months hearing from all of you, and doing our best to balance the physical needs of our spaces with our production needs, as well as your preferences. And nothing happens without putting safety first. All of that will be taken into account as we make decisions about how and when we make the slow return back.
I hope this is helpful. I know that there are a lot of questions that have yet to be answered, as many of you await news about school, summer camp, and all of the activities that used to be such a normal part of all of our lives. These conversations will continue, and you have my assurance that I will communicate as much as I can as decisions are made.
Thank you for your continued patience and understanding as we see this through together.