The Role of the Office: Why the Death of the Office is a Myth

You're probably well aware of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on work life. With the rise of policies, such as social distancing and work-from-home, it is easy to assume that traditional office-work is dead or dying. This could not be further from the truth. While it's a fact that most businesses have closed offices or have downsized and reduced the staff in the office, it's also true that humans are social beings. Below, we shall look at the reasons why office practice is just facing a temporary setback.

Vacant Office

Social habits in the office

The notion that social interaction is key for growth is hardly new. Human beings are social creatures, therefore you can't work at optimal capacity while in isolation. Social interactions, office banter, break room chats and other office traditions help you thrive in the workplace. You can exchange ideas, read social issues, and expand your emotional intelligence.

Being in an office works for the good of every business. It allows close association which drives competition, collaboration, and fuels creativity. Sure, video conferencing has somewhat mimicked the office environment, but it's not exactly the same. It is difficult to fully replace or replicate face-to-face contact.

Technological advancement has yet to catch up

Without a doubt, the pandemic has fast-tracked remote working. You can comfortably work from home on a full-time basis and still deliver on productivity. However, this is only applicable in specific fields.

The production industry is yet to catch up on the work-from-home schedule. Even with robotic help and artificial intelligence, the human thought process is still crucial in the manufacturing and production industry. We still need production line supervisors, and people to work and manage the floor.

In addition to this, recruitment and talent acquisition still heavily relies on the human role. Consultancy in this field is yet to be replaced by technology. An experienced recruiter can analyze unspoken abilities in a potential candidate, and pick up on subtle hints unseen in a remote interview. Hiring the best person for the job is crucial for the success of any business, and will give you an edge over your competitors.

Loss of intangible capital

Intangible capital includes knowledge, networks, and contacts made in the workplace. It is easier to gain such resources while working in an office. Constructive conversation among coworkers helps build connections vital to your business, as well as boost morale. Office interactions are irreplaceable, even though virtual workspaces are all the rage today.

Shared knowledge among workers is receding as people embrace remote workplaces. As much as video conferencing has allowed coworkers to network, nothing tops one-on-one talks. This is where ideas are exchanged with both verbal and non-verbal conversations. You get to discuss best practices and how to best improve the workplace while speaking face to face and nothing can replace this.

Cities rely on offices for service delivery

Cities all around the world have invested heavily in office spaces as a source of income. The demand for regional office workspaces has greatly increased over the past decade. Buildings, such as the Burj Khalifa, are giant business hubs that host a variety of offices. Such landmarks would not be possible without the high-value placed offices.

Public transport in cities also relies on office workers, ferrying them to and from work. Small and medium enterprises, ranging from gas stations to delivery services also profit from offices. Imagine a world where the office was dead. There would be very low demand in the service industry, and whole economies would suffer.

The cleaning service industry would greatly suffer if offices were completely done away with. There would be no more janitors to be hired, no window washers, and no maintenance crew. Such jobs are vital to the economic growth of a city. If offices were no longer in operation, there would be no more employment of cleaning services to city buildings, and no revenue to maintain them.

So, are cities really going to lose their luster after centuries of being hubs for innovation? The law of supply and demand seems to answer this question. Since there shall always be a demand for workspaces, large cities will always be there to supply offices. Established businesses and start-ups had already started experimenting with remote workspaces long before the pandemic. Programs like Zoom and Slack were being used pre-lockdown and their introduction into office practice was bound to happen.

This does not mean that offices are going to be replaced. It simply means that offices were bound to be depopulated. Fewer people were going to be accepted in physical workplaces sooner or later.


What are you likely to see in the future?

Without a doubt, a revolution in how you view the office and how often you work there is inevitable. You will probably see more flexible work schedules and smaller office staff. Although you won't completely retreat to a remote workstation, it is completely plausible to imagine fewer hours in the office. Most businesses will most probably prefer fewer office workers so that they observe social distancing, even after the pandemic.

The daily commute may be complemented by a sustainable remote schedule. In the near future, a 3-day work week would be sufficient to meet client demands, along with 2 days of remote work. Greater demand for bigger workspaces shall arise. The supply of regional office space will need to increase to match this new demand, which will only grow larger with time. This will lead to exponential growth in cities across the globe.

The emergence of remote working, hastened by the coronavirus pandemic, and the need to reduce the office footprint to reduce overhead costs, may be valid reasons to slim down the role of the office to businesses and organisations. But they aren't likely to cause the death of the office just yet. From the look of things, the office may just shift from onsite to offsite, as many businesses ponder the reality of hybrid and flexible workspaces.

The death of the office largely remains a myth, even as remote working gathers momentum.