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The MCM Skunkworks programme imagines a new world of work

MCM Architecture recently revealed findings from its recent Manifesto, predicting a bold shift in the world of work.

12/11/2020 5 min read

In Spring 2020, the world as we know it was altered in a way many had never seen before. It is estimated that 4.5 billion people went into lockdown, affecting everything about the way and where we live and work.

We saw many of the world’s business leaders starting to question the need for their large HQ offices. Martin Sorrell – the former WPP Chairman and CEO of S4 Capital – was quoted as saying, ‘I spend around £35m on property in a year. I’d much rather invest that in people than expensive offices’.
‘The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,’ said Jes Staley, the CEO of Barclays. Jonathan Lewis of Capita – who employ over 40,000 people – reportedly envisioned ‘a smaller property footprint once the pandemic is over’. He also commented that property they kept would likely be used ‘less to house banks of standalone desks and much more to bring teams together to work collaboratively’.

Early in the lockdown, MCM activated their in-house Think Tank – the MCM Skunkworks Programme – to research and develop ideas and predictions post-pandemic. The focus was on corporate organisations, their people and places of work.

The findings were (maybe surprisingly) not about design, but about changes in company policies, behaviours, organisational structures, recruitment policies and location strategies. At a time when the pandemic had stunned economies and businesses, MCM has realised pathways for medium- and long-term socio-economic impact, which are set to open new opportunities for employment, invigorate local communities and reduce the environmental impact on the planet.

‘As creative thinkers, our team considered the implications of this extreme global social experiment,’ MCM Managing Director, Jon Race, comments. ‘We set out to define: what is the purpose of the office? After 10 weeks of research, virtual discussions with our clients, surveys with staff and the development of our own ideas, we determined three predictions that reach much further than just the purpose of offices. We think they are fundamental to society.’ 

Prediction 1: A Return to Human

MCM’s findings identified that, during lockdown, many people practiced (for the first time) a true work/life balance. Connecting with family, communities, nature, friends – managing their own time and still working productively. People do not want to go back to an imbalance of work and very little of life. A Return to Human is a path and priority for organisations to create a culture that positively affects physical and mental wellbeing – to look after their people.

‘Employers that offer a tailored approach, placing people at the centre of employment policies, organisational and management structures that encourage freedom of work/life balance, will have a positive impact on their people,’ Jon continues. ‘This will, in turn, result in a more motivated workforce, leading ultimately to better business results.’

Prediction 2: The Radial Office

The Radial Office is about giving staff a choice of how and where they work. It is an evolution of agile working, responding to both the positive and negative reactions enforced by remote working during lockdown. MCM’s research found that the experience of working from home was great for some and not ideal for others. However, almost everyone supported the desire to stop commuting every day.

‘Our findings showed that, for many organisations, performance and productivity didn’t fall off a cliff when employees were out of sight,’ MCM Director, Ken Giannini, says. ‘Significant cost savings were made, providing a compelling reason to carefully look at how businesses can re-imagine their structures and their real estate location strategies.’
MCM proposes that this concept will provide businesses with the opportunity to redefine their portfolio of work locations to three types of workspace – giving staff a choice of commuting to a central HQ type hub office, working locally in a regional small drop-in office or working from home.

The firm predicts that most organisations will have smaller city offices or ‘central hubs’, providing space for social interaction, collaboration, client engagement, mentoring or activities not practical for home or local hubs. In turn, this downsize will see an increase in the demand for regional or local hubs and home workspaces at the same time.

Ken notes the benefits: ‘The Radial Office will re-ignite local communities when we see underutilised spaces such as retail spaces converted to local work hubs and more people at home supporting local economies – not to mention the benefits that less commuting has on the environment and energy consumption.’

Prediction 3: The Gig Company

Finally, the Gig Company: placing trust at the forefront. MCM describes this as a business model built on the premise that its workforce does not have to be recruited and employed because they are within commuting distance to the office.
Once you take away commuting and promote remote working, the workforce catchment becomes global. Embracing trust and autonomy, people are said to excel, wherever they are, according to the Manifesto findings. And the great benefits are equal to organisations and their people.

In a Gig Company, staff can be free to work anywhere. MCM predicts that we will see younger workers moving to more affordable parts of the country, benefiting the individual as well as the economies of the regions. MCM also foresees a rise in the diversity and new employment opportunities for staff in a Gig Company.

‘By encouraging home or local working, it is much easier to employ people that find commuting difficult to cope with or working parents with school age children or those that cannot afford childcare, for example,’ Jon explains.

Gig Companies will have the world as their catchment for employing talent. MCM sees great benefits to SME’s, who can access global talent and global coverage for their products or services. The team are confident that Gig Companies will not only have a dispersed workforce of individuals but will seek to collaborate with other organisations, forming networks of like-mined businesses.

This concept is predicted to accelerate in the months and years to come. Companies will seek to rebuild, re-imagine their route to market, innovate, motivate, and keep their people (regardless of location).


A New World of Work has three positive predictions that MCM believes will be a model for success with corporate organisations coming out of the pandemic period. The far-reaching benefits go beyond business, but will contribute to the economic growth in communities, employment opportunities, diversity and inclusion, as well as reducing the environmental impact on the planet.

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