What is going to happen to the office? I get this a lot. There is obviously no single answer. Do people need physical environments? Yes. Do they need to enter into long-term leases with excess space to grow into for 100% of their staff for 100% of the time? No.
The answer to what happens next is somewhere in between. This is nothing new though.
Technology means companies are increasingly running balance sheet light. They are taking on more freelancers and consultants, encouraging more flexibility in staff working and they are taking short-term flexible leases, which means they can shed cost quickly in times of stress (or at least mitigate long-term liability). Seems sensible – but definitely not a new phenomenon.
But then again, maybe only a small number of businesses are actually tapping into this. I walk around London and visit various offices and it still strikes me quite how lifeless, soulless these (often glass) boxes are. Open plan offices (apart from executives), employees crammed in, encouraged to work hard, nowhere to escape, driven to productivity only at the expense of all else and offset by the subsidised gym membership, pension scheme and bang average salary.
It’s a classic trap. I actually fell for it years ago.
Employees – you know what I am talking about. You are the same people who are currently skiving off for two hours a day without your boss noticing (ps. they are noticing – that’s why they are desperate for you to return!). You are also the same employees who are being encouraged to prove your productivity more often even though there is potentially less to do.
So, those thinking there is a revolution in offices coming; take your head out of your 10-20-year lease in your glass box and note this revolution started ages ago and we thank the likes of WeWork, The Office Group and others for it.
This is not really about productivity. This is about businesses being fiscally responsible and looking after employees. So, find an office structure which provides more than just a destination for work; make it a destination where you can strengthen culture and performance, which will lead to productivity. An environment where people genuinely are proud, where they want to go to see colleagues and friends, to ask questions, take exercise, breakout/escape, drink good coffee and improve mental health.