Coronavirus: What's the future for the office?

However, since the lockdown, almost half the UK's workforce says they have been working from home - and some companies have hinted it could become the future. "The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past," said the boss of Barclays, while Morgan Stanley's chief said the bank will have "much less real estate". Businessman Sir Martin Sorrell said he'd rather invest the £35m he spends on expensive offices in people instead.

The game is up for the office as we know it, suggests Bruce Daisley, who is the author of The Joy of Work.

"Unfortunately, we might get misty-eyed about it but I think the office in the form it used to be is probably now a thing of the past," he told BBC Radio 4's Today program. "I was chatting to someone who works at a major media outlet last week, and he said we used to have 1,400 people coming into this office every day. For the last eight weeks, we've had 30 people and the product hasn't changed.

"He said anyone who thinks things are going to go back to the way things were is bananas."

How will it affect us?

Many of us have already discovered some of the perks and problems of working from home. Some are obvious - no commute; less chance to socialize with colleagues. But others go to the heart of our identity.

"I think we should all howl at what we're losing," says Lucy Kellaway, who has written both fiction and non-fiction books about offices. "I think the most important thing about the office is it gives some sort of meaning to what we do. Most of what we do at our laptops - let's face it - is pretty much meaningless.

"The best way of thinking there's some point to it is having other people who are sitting all around you doing the same thing."

"And once we're there we can be a different person," she told Today. "I don't know about you but I'm absolutely sick and tired of being the same person all day as I slouch around at home. I want to have different clothes, go into the office, see different people who become my lifelong friends, and have a complete laugh when I'm there." 

Prof Spicer says studies show that people who work from home are more productive and happier - especially without the commute, one of the main factors that make people unhappy. But among the downsides, he cites one study showing home-workers feel they are "in exile" and thus become "needy towards their bosses".

"Catching their boss's eye becomes their main job. It's that desire to be seen to be doing stuff and when you're not you become a bit worried and paranoid. That's a downside for employees and employers."


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