In May, Shopify’s CEO and founder tweeted “Office centricity is over.” He was announcing that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, his business would continue to work-from-home indefinitely. Joining the ranks of dot-com giants like Twitter and Google, Shopify is just one in a growing list of Silicon Valley bellwethers taking the rest of 2020 to “rethink” their office footprints for a more socially-distanced, safety-fixated workforce. When they do reopen, gone will be the old 9-to-5 work week, with its many tediums and frustrations—but also maybe a few of its pleasures. What will be in its place? Nobody knows for sure, yet.
But it’s not just them; the idea is trickling down and rippling out. From global banks to tiny agencies, companies everywhere are musing over a future in which work-from-home is the new norm. This debate signals a shift in mindset that will impact all aspects of our lives. Its implications reach far beyond traditional office culture and into the nooks and crannies of our complex economy. Until now, the modern office has been the central hub upon which the many spokes of our industrial ecosystem depend—from hotels and restaurants to mass transportation to global retail. This shift will undoubtedly change the way we think about freelancing, and continuing education, and real estate purchasing…the list goes on. Regardless of where you stand, contemplating the countless unknowns of this new reality can make your head spin.
Photo by Pawel Chu
What will our weekday rituals look like?
With more flexibility comes less structure. How might this impact our productivity in the long run? Until now, we relied on our work week schedules to propel us from morning to night and day to day. In the future, we’ll need to find new ways to motivate ourselves; new ways to bring variety to our daily lives without the push and pull of an office or regular commute.
What will work-life balance mean?
Our new work-from-home lives will bring new meaning to the term “bleisure.” In our cities, where space is scarce and roommates abound, how might we optimize our living environments to better help us escape from our workday stresses and pressures?
How will we collaborate and bond?
For many, the office is a vital resource for connection; a place to commune and learn and create with others; to meet clients and make friends. With our time there gone or greatly reduced, we’ll likely seek out other forums to satiate this need.
What might we do with all that left-over space?
If the mounting assertions by major corporations are any indication, commercial real estate in urban epicenters will soon open up in swaths. A reduced need for corporate square footage means a lot more room for something else. Imagine all of the ways in which we could put that space to good use…
How do we make shared workspaces feel safe but still human?
As workplaces transform to meet new safety protocols, they will undoubtedly also become more sterile. Still, we believe people will always want to feel like they belong in their place of work. We’ll need to find ways to humanize and infuse warmth into our spaces while celebrating cleanliness like never before.
Though the questions can feel daunting, the promise of change is also exciting. Our imaginations are filled with ideas for a very different—and maybe even better—future. We see endless possibilities for cross-industry transformation and the blurry outlines of a vivid new workplace landscape are beginning to form. In an effort to bring them into sharper focus, we’ve put pen to paper and we’d like to offer you a glimpse of what we’re envisioning.
Stay tuned for part two.