The Future Of Work Is Smart And Why This Is Good News For Our High Streets
The debate about working from home rages on. And who knows it may be mandatory for us all again as another total lockdown seems more and more likely. Well, just as soon as government realises that the measures introduced last week simply don’t go far enough.
The views range from totally for it, to sitting on the fence, to totally against it. I’ll make my case for a version of both.
We are all as one in deeming it critical for children to get back to school, for their education and for their social development. Why then, do we not take the exact same view when looking at working in the office versus working from home?
Home for very many of us is a cramped and uncomfortable space when we spend too much time there. For others, it is a chaotic cocktail of interruption and incident. It’s not the paradise that we all wish it would be. More than that though, just like our children, we need the order, we need the company, we need the spontaneity of the office from which great things can emerge.
Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next is well regarded in the industry for speaking good, honest common sense. In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, he argued that, “At its best, an office can be a cauldron for new ideas and enhanced collaboration.”
Death by deck was one drawback of home working, he said, along with the absence of those chance meetings and spontaneous conversations that can make a business sing. On the other hand, he said, his home-based colleagues were less stressed from the commute, less distracted and often more focused and more effective. “At best, these new ways of working have engendered independence of action, creativity and stimulated innovation.”
Opinion is therefore divided, even within one titan of the retail industry who appears to be navigating this crisis better than most. In truth, it’s all about achieving a balance. Working exclusively from home is unlikely to become a thing, just as a return to working exclusively from the office is equally unlikely.
Our anxieties and fears, now deeply embedded, together with the technology to enable it, have ushered in a new era of working, something I refer to as ‘smart working’. A combination of working from home, the office and working near to home.
Yes, expect those empty premises on your local high street to soon be given a new lease of life as local work hubs, working from the office without the commute.
Office life can now be more effectively mixed with some home based work and near home working for those who want it. But ultimately, we humans are social beings and for that reason alone, the office must remain. It’s just that we must make it safe again in order to get back and develop ourselves and our colleagues.