Ever since the creation of the first reported purpose built office opening its doors to hundreds of administrative and managerial workers in Leadenhall Street in 1729, there has been an uneasy relationship between the corporate workplace and worker liberty.
Early reports from these times cite instances of worker stress (officially recorded as insanity in the 1730’s), dissatisfaction at plans for the Christmas party, and even letters of petition regarding inequality of bonuses. Our forefathers had one objective from this misery – to be set free.
Quite a lot of history later and the unfolding impact of a global pandemic and the good news is that this generation of worker has succeeded where no other has even come close.
It has escaped the confines of the office, it has evaded the clutches of corporate HQ and it has swerved the odd rituals imposed from management – lanyard wearing identity tags and unfathomable canteen queuing that we certainly wouldn’t tolerate in the over-priced Pret down the road – to name but two.
So given this great escape why do we hear of senior leaders’ asking ‘how does everyone return to the office?'
Simply everyone ‘returning’ to the office is becoming less and less feasible as the UK Government issues another round of restrictions. Even the concept of ‘anyone’ returning is hard to conceive. Therefore if leaders’ want people back in controlled environments of work productions they need to dramatically change the proposition.
Without such creativity, and investment, city centres around the world are at risk of become ghost towns of empty skyscrapers that were once the sort after status symbol of power.
Today the power is nicely situated in a comfy chair, behind an improvised desk, perched in a converted shed and concealed behind the curtain of a switched off webcam in their underwear.
Workers are liberated. The question now is will they be empowered to decide for themselves completely not just where they work, but how they work and the work they are prepared to do?