For many of us, the most obvious and immediate forced experiment we are taking part in is doing office work without an office. At some point the constraints which forced that to happen will start to relax and at that point we will have a choice. We can do our best to re-establish the old familiar patterns of work which seemed to work well enough, but which in any case needed to change. Or we can attempt a better synthesis of tools and places, of concentration and dispersion, of work and home – and of how we add value collectively to what we do individually.
Who says ‘normal’ was the right way to do things? We have an ideal opportunity to reset, rethink and rewire ourselves to create a more productive, more connected, happier and healthier new ‘normal’.
As an experiment, it has severe limitations: every other aspect of the crisis means that for many this is a forced coping strategy rather than a bold experiment to uncover a better future, but that doesn’t mean that there is no value in it, it simply means that we need to be careful in interpreting what it is telling us. But there should be no mistaking the strength of the message or the scale of the opportunity.
This post does not prescribe what we should do with that opportunity, but it is a characteristically powerful call to arms to take it and to make something of it.
For all the pain people are living though right now there is huge opportunity here. We may never go back to living and working in exactly the same ways we did before. In fact it would be a collective failure if we were to do so.
We’ll now need a genuinely radical review of the purpose of offices and that means having to think very differently about what it means to “go to work”.