How do we talk about work in a pandemic?

Podcasts about work are grappling with the changes brought about by the coronavirus crisis.

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The world of work is in flux. A majority of office staff are working from home or furloughed, as a wealth of service and hospitality workers begin to return to their jobs. Meanwhile, podcasts about work are grappling with the changes. Some, such as Esther Perel’s How’s Work?, ended before the pandemic, and have dated quickly. Others tackle the new landscape directly.

“We were actually planning on launching a whole different season – and then the pandemic hit,” said Anna Codrea-Rado on her podcast Is This Working? She described recent episodes as “an audio diary of the impact of the pandemic on work”. She and co-host Tiffany Philippou, both veterans of working from home, discussed everything from financial anxiety and productivity to professional loneliness.

Slate’s Working began in 2014, and has featured all kinds of guests (such as a sports bra scientist, an oyster farmer and a cloistered nun), but has rebranded with new hosts and a focus on creative roles. “We’ve been planning this revamp for a while and then we had to revamp our revamp so it could work remotely,” explained host June Thomas.

Stylist’s newly launched Working From Home contains tips and tricks, and guests such as Stacey Dooley, Laura Whitmore and Deborah-Frances White. And recent episodes of Bruce Daisley’s Eat Sleep Work Repeat ask “What’s the value of an office?” and “What happens now?”

But there are shows that look beyond the home office. Jacob Hawley’s Job Centre from BBC Sounds has a wider scope – with conversational interviews with a Deliveroo cyclist, a BT engineer and a plumber, as well as carers, supermarket workers and doctors. It’s a welcome reminder that in a pandemic, working from home is a luxury. 

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 17 July 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Race for the vaccine

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