I would like the office to return. I speak for myself, not for my colleagues.
The recent Google announcement that staff can work from home until July 2021 will reignite the debate about the end of the office culture and it makes me a little sad.
So much good has come from the office environment. Sure, it was not perfect and came with some downsides, but on the whole it worked because of one simple thing.
We don’t want to spend our lives perched in a room somewhere staring at a small screen and for the most part we don’t want to be alone.
Offices at their heart are social places where we thrive off social interaction. I sometimes think that is lost in the war on office culture.
I have come to the conclusion that those who claim the end of the office culture have some skin in the game – whether that’s the topic of their next book, a training course in how to work from home or some thesis on how office culture requires a pivot to “not office” culture.
It could be that companies want to save money. There will be some of those, but don’t point at Google – its office costs are a pin drop in the ocean of its total revenues.
So what does need to change? We need to optimise work from home versus work in the office.
Pre-Covid-19, many people were starting to talk about four-day weeks. Could they work?
They could not have seen what was about to strike us all, but perhaps they were already understanding that the commute was the issue – the wasted time spent in hours of travel every day, the delays, the cancellations, the rigidity.
Perhaps what they needed was flexibility. A not-so-rigid start time or being able to work from home a couple of days a week would have helped them – and all of us – a lot.
We made our lives so hard with that rigidness – all forced to travel at once, pay crazy prices and stand on trains.
That, to me, is where the transition has to occur – less rigidity, more trust, but always with the ability to come together when we need to and being able to look forward to coming together.
Some are pointing to the concept of online communities and how powerful they are. I just don’t buy it. All online communities have a “real” element to them, whether it’s around events, meetings, concerts, get-togethers, coffee mornings or drinks – they all have some support mechanism in the real world.
I think I would enjoy home work more if I knew I could go to London tomorrow and meet up with colleagues. I would enjoy that video conference call that avoided an early commute more if next Monday I could see the team in Italy in person.
What I absolutely can’t look forward to is staring at my computer, in a spare room, for the rest of my career. That, for me, holds no joy and anyone who is selling their next book about “how to thrive running your business in your spare room” will find short thrift here.
Marco Bertozzi is vice-president of EMEA sales and multi-market global sales at Spotify. He first published a version of this article on his personal blog