Back to the office?

Today, in the UK we will start to get some real evidence of just how important the office is. As of today, employers can insist we go back to the office providing that essential safety measures are met, and we agree. That’s a big couple of caveats, but nonetheless an important change.

I’m genuinely interested to see what happens. I suspect that by now those who have spent the best part of four months away from the office, and are still employed have found out how to operate as well, or maybe even better than they did in the office so functionality is not likely to be the issue.

Here we get to another form of privilege, If you have an office at home, space to work and relationships that support it I suspect the idea of the routine of travelling to the office every day does nothing for you.

If on the other hand, you’re stuck in a small, expensive flat with others, it’s different. A return to the office might well be welcome.

In the break, we’ve broken the habit, and our dependency on office life has diminished, so now it becomes an equation. How is our life better – with the office, or without? Just what does the office really offer?

Remote working tools have made a huge difference. For me, the difference between Zoom and Teams is similar to that between Mac and PC – one of style and simplicity. Zoom has changed things.

Perhaps the same is true of working full time from the office and a mix of office and home.

The challenge for is now is that we cannot unknow the pleasures and frustrations of working from home, and for many of us I suspect, home wins. We’ve worked out how to to do it, and the idea of the long commute on expensive, unreliable, potentially virus harbouring mass transport is at best unattractive at a time when the talk – and the realistic fear – is of spikes, if not a second wave as we head into Autumn and Winter.

The pressures will be there. For many – landlords, and leaders who rely on physical presence to control rather than ability to “lead” a return to the office will be welcome. For them, going back to what they understand rather than doing the hard work of evolving to a new reality is easier.

For the rest of us however, who have found the office to be optional, a great deal more freedom beckons. When we can do it remotely, we can evolve and develop our skills. We can significantly reduce our carbon footprint.

Potentially, we can choose where to live based on quality, not train stations, and with the right skills have more options as to who to work with.

It will not be instant, but the “glue” of the physical office has become siginificantly weaker over the last few months.

Many of us are being presented with choices we had only entertained in daydreams at the beginning of this year. I think it may really change things, for the better.

Let’s see what happens.

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