Are we seeing the end of the office?

With a rising number of Covid-19 cases being confirmed across the UK and increased restrictions coming into place. Does this signal the death of the office?


Jonathan Phillips, Head of Consulting at simplycommunicate

Jonathan is a 25-year veteran of digital and internal communications, having worked client-side at Coca-Cola European Partners (where he was Head of Digital Communications). Jonathan now leads a team of brilliant consultants at simply, helping global clients meet their employee and business needs. In addition, he is an advisor to the UK government and an experienced non-exec director.

As someone who has worked from home to various degrees over the course of my career, it would be very easy for me to launch into an acerbic denunciation of why the office isn’t the solution to all business challenges, but you’re a smarter audience so let’s consider the “working day” as a framework for a more thorough digest of the issues. 

For the vast majority of us, the working morning starts from home and with putting our uniform on. Since our school days, that’s what we’ve done, making a minor adjustment from tie and blazer to smart casual, or whatever other odd definition of acceptable your company policy has defined. There’s an expectation about how we look for work: clothes, shoes, hair, makeup, or the degree to which we have shaved. In the 21century, we are judged: we can all readily identify wardrobe items that are distinctly for work and those are not. The uniform is defined by our employer; it’s a problem if you don’t comply and to comply, is mostly to deny who we really are. It’s a model borne of Victorian schools, reinforced by the military, perpetuated by the office.  

The home-worker is more relaxed. 

According to the UK’s Trade Union Congress, the average UK commute time was 59mins – almost an hour. For those who have the misfortune to live in the South-East, that commute was an average of 1hr 19mins a day, or 6.5 hours a week – approaching an entire working day of time just to get to work.  

And what a commuting experience? Hours on expensive trains, crammed close with thousands of other people. To think that folks actively volunteer for this is remarkable! 

And most office workers have an imperfect choice: avoid the commute by living locally to the office, likely have a much smaller property at higher costs with noise and pollution environmental impacts;  or maybe they embrace the commute and likely have higher transportation costs, carbon footprint impacts but live in a bigger house. 

I know many commuters who take great value in their commute. It’s a time to practice mindfulness, to read, to catch up on informative podcasts or even to work, but I’d argue you can still do all those things from home and avoid the downsides.  

In this article, I explore why Covid-19 has created a social experiment about these ideas that is hugely exciting and will lead to some transformational ideas for work and the workplace. What do you think? 

simplycommunity members can read the full article here.

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