April 29, 2021

Remote remains option at Random; WFH touted


Looking skywards from the sidewalk in front of the Penguin Random House offices at 1745 Broadway, New York City. Image courtesy of “Google.”

Holy hybrid! As reported today in industry tip-sheet Publishers Weekly, book behemoth Penguin Random House intends to keep its workplace “remote-friendly” going forward. In a memo to employees, CEO Madeline McIntosh said that starting in September some employees may be returning to PRH headquarters at 1745 Broadway, in midtown Manhattan.

The cagey CEO said that the September date remains “written in pencil” and will be guided by PRH’s “own cocktail of caution and common sense.” We were momentarily distracted by this vivid if possibly mixed metaphor—words are our business, folks!—before we continued on, learning that PRH may “at some point consider a re-design of 1745 Broadway.” A “re-design”? Is this code for “move our entire physical office, what’s left of it, somewhere else”? Only time will tell …

We will confess that this news was of interest to us not just because PRH is the biggest of the Big Six Five Four publishers but because they are also, of course, our partners! We think back to many a jolly hour spent sitting in their airless fluorescent-lighted 20th-floor conference room, feeling our souls drain slowly from our bodies brainstorming ways to bring our books into the sunlight of commercial and critical success. (LEGAL — IS THIS ACTIONABLE? PLS ADVISE / AS) Are those halcyon days of yore gone … for good? (Cue shimmering slow-mo footage of lambs frolicking in a meadow while a dulcimer plays. Or something.)

Sorry, sorry … Staying strongly on message (people like doing what they’re good at!), crafty CEO McIntosh urged PRH employees to “think of these conversations [about office re-opening] as shared planning and problem-solving exercises.” Well, golly! Who amongst us doesn’t like a good shared problem solving-exercise? See you the water cooler!



Michael Lindgren is the Managing Editor at Melville House.