The current campaign to get people back into offices is notable for a few things;
That there is consistent correlation between ‘back to office’ and ‘back to work’ which seems to be disingenuous at best. ‘Office’ workers have been working non-stop since all this kicked off.
The fact that those notoriously soft on workers and shy on evidence employers like banks, lawyers and big tech have realised that there is no noticeable drop in productivity and they can save money have told their people to stay home for the foreseeable is being totally ignored.
The potential demise of Pret is being held up like it is the fall of the Roman Empire. (edit – don’t get me wrong I like a Pret – when I’m working in London I’m relying on them like everybody else and I don’t want people to lose their jobs but I think its weird that they have been turned into the standard bearers for a culture war..)
Also Pret is such a London thing – so much of this is a London thing which on one level I totally understand but on another….well I’ll avoid swearing.
A lot of retired people seem to have very strong opinions on people going back to work – probably to stop disturbing them during the day with all those pesky video calls.
Not a single person calling for a return to the office has any intention of returning to an office. Or has even seen an office in decades. Let alone an open plan office. Or has ever used public transport at rush hour.
Honestly columnists crying out for a return from their beach homes in Florida and CEOs lamenting the drop in productivity from their yacht in the Med is some prime time bullshit even for 2020.
I’m still waiting for some of the more nuanced conversations I see in corners of the web to break through to the mainstream. How about we talk about getting more people – especially young people – back living more centrally in cities. Convert some of those offices into affordable accommodation – not bloody AirBnBs – and make it easier for people to live nearer work if offices need to survive (and I do think there is a case for this – just none of what is being said at the moment!)
Offices need to be radically redesigned – it isn’t about more sensors, hand sanitisers and taped off chairs. It needs to be more fundamental – more structural than that.
Is it the rise of the ‘village’ and local high streets that we should be embracing. Flexible, pop-up offices in locations based on the geography of your staff rather than an address that impresses clients?
Honestly I don’t have a clue – I’m just waiting for smarter people than me to come up with some ideas that don’t lead me to grind my teeth and reach for the bourbon.
What I do know is this little collection of contradictory, personal facts:
I do not want to return to London on anything like a regular basis.
I am not keen on returning to client offices as a default either.
I am sick and tired (literally) of working at home.
My flat is totally not appropriate for working at home if we have a bad winter.
The idea of being in a shed office in November/December/January/February totally put me off building one.
I want an office – not a desk – but I don’t want to have to get public transport every day in winter so my options are limited. For now.
So for the time being I’ll keep waiting for the public discussion to improve and for inspiration for where I’m going to work in the months to come. Until then I’ll be at my desk, in my bedroom, using a whiteboard to hide the mess behind me!