Monday, June 18, 2007

The Publishing Work Environment

One factor that gets a lot of consideration when assessing which career you are best suited to is the work environment. You need to understand what conditions you are likely to be working in and decide whether this will make you happy.

To that end, the U.S. Department of Labor includes a "Working Conditions" section in each job listing in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (its extensive catalog of facts about the 280 most popular jobs in the U.S. economy). Here's part of that listing for the "Writers and Editors" category:

Some writers and editors work in comfortable, private offices; others work in noisy rooms filled with the sound of keyboards and computer printers, as well as the voices of other writers tracking down information over the telephone. The search for information sometimes requires that writers travel to diverse workplaces, such as factories, offices, or laboratories, but many find their material through telephone interviews, the library, and the Internet.

Advances in electronic communications have changed the work environment for many writers. Laptop computers and wireless communications technologies allow growing numbers of writers to work from home and even on the road. The ability to e-mail, transmit, and download stories, research, or editorial review materials using the Internet allows writers and editors greater flexibility in where and how they complete assignments.

I have worked in and visited many different publishing offices over the years and pretty much agree with this assessment. Managers and those with seniority are in window offices, while entry-level people are in cubicles. In book publishing I would say the "noisy rooms" have gotten better: keyboards don't make a ton of noise and laser printers are much quieter than the old dot-matrix printers. But you still have to contend with discourteous coworkers who have extended loud conversations (on the phone and in person). Office Space and Dilbert are not exaggerations.

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