Not done for months, but lately I have been dreaming about my colleagues again. This Wednesday it has been exactly a year since I started working from home – a year! Maybe my subconscious is looking for office life again. And to the editors.
But also during the day I sometimes dream away. Images of my fiftieth birthday party with a hundred people in a room. On Table Mountain with my daughter. A cup of coffee on a terrace in Picardy – a cup of coffee on a terrace at all! – the memories flash by. I can’t wait for the world to open up again.
And yet I am also becoming increasingly anxious about the moment when that will actually happen. Because what if corona were gone tomorrow: have we learned enough from this crisis? I’m worried about that. Not just about the climate, the shelters that become overcrowded again when people are tired of the pets they brought in during the crisis, the beer bikes, the hordes of tourists. But also when it comes to work.
Because no matter how much I miss my colleagues: I hope that when everyone is vaccinated, I will be able to continue working at home a little more. Not every employer thinks this is a good idea. The lobby to get everyone back to the office as soon as possible seems to be (again) getting stronger.
Take David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs investment bank. He complained in an article at the end of last month The Guardian that he wants to get his employees back to the office as soon as possible – ASAP – like ‘go back to the office you guys!’. He even called working from home ‘an aberration’, a morbid abnormality. One that he would prefer to ‘correct’ as soon as possible.
Because working from home is not something you can do in the “innovative culture” of Goldman Sachs, says Solomon. He wants “personal connection” (personal connectivity) and that is not possible if people work from home, he thinks. Indeed: innovation and connection, some of the most hollow terms with which office workers were dragged into the office for decades.
What he probably means: connection and innovation from his own size corner office with his secretary as a watchdog at the door. Without any proof that you automatically get innovation and connection when you force people together in an office. As if you couldn’t organize connection and innovation much better in other ways – in much smaller groups, at other locations, closer to the staff.
His comments also contrast sharply with the sound at the start of the corona crisis. At the time, many employers still saw the benefits of working from home – more autonomy and less distraction lead to higher productivity for many people – and companies (including Google, Apple and British Telecom) announced that this could become much more the standard even after corona.
There are still employers who are heading for this. For example, banks have already announced HSBC and Lloyd’s that they need 40 percent and 20 percent less office space respectively after the crisis – not just like that. After the crisis, 77 percent of Lloyd’s employees would prefer to work from home for three days or more a week, according to a survey.
In the Netherlands, the rental of large offices also fell by 40 percent last year compared to 2019, according to a report by real estate advisor Dynamis. But a number of employers, like Goldman Sachs, are starting to back out.
Like Barclays – who in April last year had found “7,000 people in an office” old-fashioned, but now said he could not wait to see everyone back in the office. But also in the Netherlands employers are walking around who cannot wait to drag the staff back to the office. Such as the director of IT company AFAS who in News hour showed the new headquarters.
The staff will soon be doing work at home, he said. But at the office ‘the experience could begin’. On a campus, Apple-style, with a coffee bar, a meditation room, a gym, a theater, a courtyard and a ball pit – okay, I made up that ball pit myself. Yet.
As if we couldn’t build much better homes on the site of such an immense complex. As if everyone wants to go back to the office to exercise and relax with their colleagues. As if AFAS could not invest much better in gym subscriptions, in culture, in days off, in outings, instead of the umpteenth superfluous campus.
And in my mind I saw the overcrowded open plan offices looming again; the traffic jams, the overcrowded trains during rush hour, everyone sick and cold again, endless useless meetings. Sure, anyone who wants to go back to the office in the future should definitely do so. But will there also be room for the people who use the corona crisis to redesign the environment, climate, work and personal life?
Well, that’s why I have been sleeping a bit restless lately.
How was your week? Japke-d. Bouma would like to know. Tips via @Japked on Twitter, via nrc.nl and LinkedIn.
A version of this article also appeared in nrc.next of March 10, 2021
One year after corona: back to the office, you guys!
Source link One year after corona: back to the office, you guys!