In light of recent events there is a lot of talk about how we work and speculation about changes to the way we go about work, with many companies opting, or having no choice, to allow staff to work from home, fuelling theories about the future of our work culture.
The financial Times ran an article about the issue, which prompted this blog piece, in which quite a few corporations are thinking about downsizing, citing the reported ease with which many made the transition to working from home, and how people are getting used to the peculiarities involved. Whereas before, having a cat walk across the desk or a small child wander into a board meeting would have been unprofessional at best or even outrageous, these types of happenings have become common place and tend to be seen as amusing and even endearing.
While there is the inevitable talk surrounding changes in circumstances its difficult to actually predict the long term impact on life style of any new technology or occurrence. Remember the paperless office that was predicted when IT first appeared? That didn't really happen. In fact in some cases people reported more paperwork that ever. Although, according to several sources, the cost of software in some cases, especially when it's incompatible with other systems already in place, has prohibited companies from going fully digital, one thing you can say about paper, it's just readable, you don't need the newest kind of eyeballs to access it. And, just like the incompatibility of software issue, we may very well find as we go along that there are issues with working from home. One thing that I personally am aware of is that when I've had to have meetings online and they have been fine, I do find it easier if I'm in the same space as someone I'm working with to simply ask across the room, 'What was that issue we were talking about earlier?', rather than schedule another meeting over details.
It just goes to show that there are just too many variables to accurately predict future trends. Curiously, one of the variables that doesn't often seem to get a mention is human interaction.
Why people need people
Most people understand that early humans stuck together for survival, this is essentially why we're social animals, and this has become an important part of our emotional survival and this interaction still pulls us towards others to this day. The fastest growing economic sector was event based before the pandemic, events being basically an excuse for people to gather in one place. We love getting together, we're fundamentally made that way according to psychology.
You also have to wonder at the speculation about the end of the office if you have experienced the co-working environment and know freelancers that prefer to work in a co-working office than on the kitchen table. One of the many reasons co-working exists is because home is not always the right environment for work. There can be too many distractions, or isolation, which has been sited as an issue during the pandemic (again, we are social creatures). And work place interaction can be very stimulating for ideas and productivity. I've written about the effect of people from different backgrounds working together and the innovation that environment can produce. That would be a lot harder to replicate from home.
And, while some businesses are giving up office space to, others have suggested that companies may even need more space due to social distancing, and overall it looks like people are trying to find ways of getting back to normal. There are signs of this with systems being put into place, such as social distancing and masks, hand sanitisers, even separate coffee machines. This is people trying to get back to normal social interaction.
However, what is real is the fact that a lot of companies are having to cut costs and, at least for the foreseeable future there will be some changes. Which is why here at The Studio a new flexible corporate office membership has been introduced, for companies that want or need to save money but still require a place for meetings once in a while. Working from the position that there will always be a need for meeting space, both for internal discussions and a place to consult face to face with clients, companies can now contact The Studio and discuss there needs and their budget and we'll come to some arrangement.
The end of the office? I'm not convinced.
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