So in this new hybrid approach, what becomes of the traditional workplace? Emerging is the concept of the work ‘ecosystem’, which consists of a collection of workplaces, each offering something different. If working from home is about getting your head down, clearing to-do lists and doing admin, then the office should adapt to deliver aspects the kitchen table can’t replicate. It needs to provide an environment for collaboration and career growth, for bouncing ideas off one another, getting to know your colleagues and growing your professional network – all activities which are much easier in person.
Given that people will have more choice about where they work then offices, and so landlords, will have to work harder to attract and keep tenants. If the office becomes more of a gathering place, then it needs to provide the corresponding amenities. Coworking spaces can provide inspiration here, with their focus on flexible working arrangements, increased amenity spaces and events programmes, and often mixed ground floor uses.
One side effect of the pandemic has been city dwellers appreciating their surroundings more; unable to travel further afield, they have been discovering local parks, shops, and cafes, and even spoken to their neighbours. What bearing does this have on the future workplace?
Step forward the ‘15-minute city’, a concept popularised by Professor Carlos Moreno, in which the city is reimagined as a series of neighbourhoods, each providing 6 key elements accessible within 15 minutes: working, caring, supplying, learning, enjoying, and living. Already embraced by the Parisian mayor, cities around the world are being enticed by this model for resilient, vibrant communities, including Madrid, Milan, Ottawa, Seattle, and Melbourne.
Yet while cities are crucial crucibles of creativity, innovation, growth, and wealth creation, not everyone lives in a city. Furthermore, remote working isn’t possible for all – think of the hospitality, service and retail industries. Add in a May 2020 study which indicated that of the 70% of Americans who were working virtually, only 5% didn’t have a high school degree, then we realise the economic inequalities knitted into who can, and who can’t, work from home.