A question posted on Reddit that reads "What do you hate about working in an office?" got about 2,600 responses, ...
Issue #1
An expressive visualisation of three questionmarks

We have no idea what’s going to happen, either

A question posted on Reddit that reads "What do you hate about working in an office?" got about 2,600 responses, many of which are not entirely surprising: “One-hour long meetings that could have been a one-paragraph email,” “being forced to sit there and look busy when there is no work that needs to be done,” “physically being in the office... especially when I can do my job from anywhere.” It's not exactly news that office spaces make people miserable — yet change is hard, so not much was changing. Until...
🔮 Back to the future

The office is nothing but a factory with laptops

In the early years of the Industrial Revolution, Richard Arkwright came up with the concept of what would become the world's first factory — Cromford Mill, England — and what would prove so effective that it would be copied all over Europe. He needed a place to store large machines (water frames, specifically), and he needed people to operate them. His idea was to have the machines operated 24 hours a day, in two 12-hour shifts, with workers living next to the mill for convenience. (He also used cheap child labor, so, no, not all his ideas were sound.)

The largest machine to operate at work today is the 17-inch Macbook Pro, and shifts are much more humane — yet the core principle seems to remain.

The modern office is closely modeled after the factory, the design of which made a lot of sense in the industrial economy, but is difficult to justify in the information economy.


The machines now fit into our backpacks

A backpack filled with a pencil and a note book
A backpack filled with a pencil and a note book

Historically, work was associated with being in the office, because how else? The equipment was there. In the 18th century it was machines, and throughout the 20th century it was typewriters, faxes, computers, etc. You worked at work, and you didn't work at home.

Obviously, now we all — at least in tech and other sectors of the extremely privileged knowledge economy — do work at home, at fancy coffee shops, at airports, and anywhere else. The paradox is that there's this very strong association with the office as a place where work happens — but a week or two of working remotely shows that, in fact, your office is where your laptop is.


A crisis is a springboard for doing things differently

Any kind of change is hard because it's extra work, and there's always more than enough work already, and it's much more comfortable to stick to the status quo — so the majority will always be reluctant to make any major changes. The changes, however, can unexpectedly come from the outside: The 2020 pandemic tipped the scales, making remote the new normal. Working from home has already become permanent in some Silicon Valley companies. So, why go back to the office?


A closer look at remote work

A personal computer that displays a smiley

In this series we're going to reflect and think about the future of work and its effect on our lives. We'll talk about how recent changes have reframed the way we think about work. We'll explore how these changes have impacted not just how we work, but where we work, and even why we work, and we'll speculate about how governments, cities, families and apartments will be impacted as a result.

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