I wonder sometimes how far away we are from the office dying?
I don’t mean my office specifically. I mean the concept and the physical manifestation.
Huge swathes of land used to hold them. Resources expended through their sustenance, upkeep and running. They form visual blots on our landscape; splatterings of glass and concrete across our towns and cities.
Millions of us still travel to the office. We walk, drive, cycle, commute. Time is lost, travelling. Pollution generated and scarce resources lost, through travelling.
When we arrive we sit in a box, or at a desk and we type and talk. We respond to emails, fill in forms, write presentations and papers. We sit in meetings, we talk in groups, we phone people. For many, the majority of the day is spent more engaged with a keyboard and display than with another human being.
Yet still we come.
Still we come to a physical building miles from where we live to sit with others who also come. Why?
Is this just a hypnotic pattern we succumbed to in past decades? A trance-like manoeuvre we replicate without thought? A pattern so ridiculous, yet so intoxicating, that we cannot see beyond it?
Many have seen the light. They work from home. Some play with the light; they work from home on Friday. Some tease the light; they come to the office, but continue working when they get home.
Some say they come for the interaction. To meet people. I wonder what future for this? The other day I heard someone say to their neighbour “I just sent you an email.” They didn’t then have the conversation. Alerting the recipient to the message seemed to suffice.
Nowadays technology either can, or is close to being able to, replicate our ability to perform all these office tasks from anywhere. Social media heralds a new way. We can already share screens, documents, hold chats, share video, see each other via Skype or Facetime. Virtual reality, an imminent reality.
So will the office die? Is the office off? Will it fade away as a construct of the 20th century, lost to the annals of history like cave dwelling or the medieval neck ruff?
Maybe we will convert them all to care homes for the elderly? Or to shelters for the homeless?