COVID COMMS #26: We’ve only half fallen out of love with the office

It looks as though we’ve only half fallen out of the office.

Four months into the pandemic and with 49 per cent of the population working from home there have been some joyous predictions of the death of the office.

The office, invented in 1726 to run the British Empire overnight has been killed by COVID-19.

We’d never go back after we experienced the joys of home working, one line of argument has gone. But the history graduate in me never tires of pointing that history is the great teacher. The First World War saw women answer the patriotic call to take their place in armanent factories.

By 1918, 90 per cent of workers working in the munitions industry were women but an act of Parliament gave returning soldiers their old jobs back and women were nudged and forced back into the household and menial jobs in service.

So, the office

According to a deeply unscientific poll in the Public Sector Comms Headspace Facebook group, just two per cent want to go back to the way things were, 26 per cent want to carry on working from home and 71 per cent want a mix of home working and office.

Fig 1: Preference for working from home, July 2020

Research says some of us are more productive at home

The Guardian reported that research shows that we’re on average 13 per cent ,more productive working from home. But the trail was with people with spare bedrooms and didn’t measure homeschoolers. Despite this after the nine-month trial was over half wanted to go back to how things were citing loneliness as a factor.

Stop looking for one size fits all

All of this is conflicting for heads of comms looking and plugs into the one universal truth of this pandemic. There is no one single experience. Some people are worked off their feet and others have spent months twiddling their thumbs. Some have been ill. Some have not.

Whatever the future holds, this will be done to teams rather than shaped by wholly shaped them. Which is depressing until you realise there’s not much you can do about it.

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