I sincerely hope that in the not too distant future we will travel less, by plane or car, shop more locally and be a little more communitarian in our outlook. But I suspect that as soon as this mysterious parasitical creature has been eliminated, we will be every bit as rapaciously selfish as we were before.
Vast swathes of deserted offices currently litter our towns and cities. I hope that one positive that will come out of this is the rise of home working and an end of an era for hour-long polluting commutes, pointless office meetings and extortionate rents.
This pandemic has paid homage to the digital revolution we have gone through over the past few decades. The advent of Zoom, Skype, Houseparty and countless other software packages and technologies now make it easier than ever before to live a virtual working life. Countless studies have proven the increased productivity of home working, with a recent US survey predicting that US productivity would rise by £273 billion if workers did their jobs from home.
Looking through an economic lens, the average yearly cost of rent and utilities for a 75 person 10000 sq ft office in Kings Cross London is around £1.1 million according to Squarefoot, a property consultancy. Equipping 75 employees with industry-leading tech - let’s say a £1000 Dell XPS laptop, a £900 Samsung Galaxy phone and even paying for their 5g internet usage of £500 a year - would equate in total to around £109k per year according to my basic level of mental arithmetic. This is a cost which most companies already pay anyway on top of office tech and rent. This could prove a very viable cost-saving measure to companies looking to weather the financial storm off the back of this crisis.
Extra savings can also be made by getting millions of cars off the road, allowing the environment to breathe as well as ourselves given that we won’t have to deal with the stresses of the daily commute. The relative peace of a home working space may improve mental health and wellbeing, in turn improving our work time productivity.
Many of you will be reading this with screaming children in the next room, a nagging partner leaving a mess around your cramped workspace and wishing you were back in the office surrounded by colleagues. We are social creatures after all. There are obvious issues with home working that I won’t mention, but we have only had two months to adapt, contrasting with the traditional offices we have been using since the Victorian era. I believe many of you would agree that the rushed home working systems companies and organisations have put into place are holding up much better than we could have ever anticipated.
My vision for the future is that we will have complete online office platforms - a digital office where you can visit different employees’ spaces and have virtual meeting rooms. There would be conferencing platforms that are far more advanced than what we currently have, which have far greater quality and ease of use, including more visibility for employers than we currently have. I believe 5g, artificial intelligence and VR systems will play a large part in this.