The reality of the asset that they never considered needing to demonstrate a return on investment actually only being used for 15% of its available time, in a good week, has at last revealed that it was hiding in plain sight – even though, in this time, there have been hundreds of thousands of almost identical occupational density graphs slid across an equal quantum of buffed walnut in the direction of otherwise-distracted CFOs.
They’ve also simultaneously realised that their sustainability goals, proudly incomprehensible to most, were massively compromised. That the environmental construction certificate in the dusty-topped frame in reception isn’t worth much if the building is doubling up on its emissions per occupant. And that no amount of roof terrace apiary will atone for it.
All of which means that, at the exact same moment that we’re able to envisage a less structured, stressful and costly working life, breezing into the office as it takes our fancy, organisations are about to shed workspace like inhibitions before dinner at the Mixology awards.
With less space comes less certainty. Instead of planning and constructing an office for everyone on the off-chance that they all show up on the same day – which they never do – there’s far less available. Not by a whisker either – quite possibly a whopping third to a half less. Musical chairs suddenly got serious. And while we’re musing on whether, when we exercise our free-will, we’ll get a seat of whatever shape and size at all, we don’t know what our colleagues will be doing without sending several hundred IMs because that’s actually the reason we’re electing to go in that day. To see people. Not to sit at a desk with headphones on adding to the mounting stats about noise and disturbance. Imagine getting the dawn stopper from Haywards Heath to find no-one we want to annoy is there at all.
So when we consider the paradox, does the office being full include us or not? That’s the crux of the problem. And why it’s a paradox. With more choice will come less choice. With more of what we want will come less of what we want. Just as with everything in workplace, the solution exists in a delicate balance. So too will the post-pandemic workplace. It won’t be all one and none of the other. We’ve had that.
The thing is, we never realised.
Neil Usher is Chief Workplace & Change Strategist at GosSpace AI, and Author of The Elemental Workplace and Elemental Change.