Book Publishers Adopt a New Office Image: Openness



Not that there hasn’t been resistance.

Merle Browne, executive assistant to Mr. Jacobs and manager of corporate events, who handled the logistics of the company’s move, heard a litany of complaints, including, “We’re all going to be sick” from the spread of germs.

Hachette had to make adjustments after its initial renovation, said Michael Pietsch, the company’s chief executive, who remains a staunch supporter of open plans. The design, by the architecture firm Gensler, provided common areas of all sizes where people could hold meetings or plop down with laptops, away from their cubes. But it underestimated the number of spaces needed for private calls. Hachette started with 12 of these “phone booths,” but has added 11 more.

Mr. Pietsch also said some editors may be able to do more work away from the office. Most departments do not schedule meetings on Fridays to allow editors to work from home that day.

But New York publishers have not gone all the way to so-called benching, where people sit side by side at long desks, as other industries have. Nor have they adopted “hot-desking,” where employees do not have assigned seats but come in every morning and select a spot to work.

“It’s important for employees to have a home base,” said Larry Nevins, executive vice president for operations at HarperCollins, and among the 20 percent of the staff who retained a private office.

Mr. Jacobs of Abrams said he had made it clear to his staff from the beginning that he would keep his, too, after the move. When asked if he got any ribbing about that, he said, “I’m quite happy to have lots of group meetings in my office.”

Besides, he added, “my door is glass, so it’s not like I can close it and hide for four hours.”


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