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Life after lockdown

life after lockdownAs we continue to adapt to life under lockdown, there is inevitably a great deal of speculation about what comes next. We are invited to consider a ‘new normal’ of a life under permanent lockdown as we swap office based work for home based work.

The obvious flaw with many of these arguments is that they rely on an idea that working life as a zero sum game, in which we can simply swap a physical office for a digital workplace. One in which Zoom replaces the face to face conversations we have with colleagues, suppliers and clients and Microsoft Teams makes meetings obsolete.

The rather obvious problem with all this is that it replaces one rigid way of working with another. It ignores the realities of human nature, especially we yearn for and seek out the company of others. It ignores the beneficial effects that structure, presence, movement and communities have on our physical and mental wellbeing. And it ignores the mounds of research stretching back over decades which confirms that the sharing of ideas and information is reliant in large part on our physical proximity to others.

This is not to say that things won’t change. But what we will see emerge is the catalysation of existing moves to empower people to work in the ways that suit them best. This will have an effect on the times and places of work, but we already understand how we can improve the experience people have of work.

We can hand them more control of their time, but we can also create the offices that give them the real time choice of where and how to work and with whom. We can also find great ways to integrate these spaces with their digital counterparts.

Making each day a richer and better experience for people was already an important goal for interior designers, suppliers and workplace managers before the pandemic. By focussing attention on the things that matter to them, we can also focus on the strengths of offices as never before. Far from being the end of the office, we could be entering its golden era…