Your workplace shaped your identity in ways you never knew.
The office, for the foreseeable future, is dead. Google and Facebook are telling employees they can work remotely until 2021. Twitter is allowing employees to work from home “forever.” A number of big banks are contemplating never fully refilling their office towers in Manhattan. Last week, my colleague Matthew Haag wrote a thoroughly depressing story in which the chief executive of Halstead Real Estate asked him point blank: “Looking forward, are people going to want to crowd into offices?”
Call me crazy, but I’m still thinking: Yes. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. The modern office may be the target of bleak caricature — the lighting is bad, the meetings are long, the only recourse to boredom is filching a colleague’s stapler and embalming it in lemon Jell-O (if you work at Dunder Mifflin). But over the coming months, I suspect that those of us who spent most of our careers in offices will grow to miss them.
What will we miss about them, specifically? Camaraderie, for one thing. Maybe it’s obvious that offices are social hubs …
But the benefits to office life are more than just social. They are also intellectual. Without offices, we miss out on the chance for serendipitous encounters, and it’s precisely those moments of felicitous engagement that spark the best ideas.
Years ago, the productivity philosopher and author Adam Grant pointed out to me that the reason we have Post-it Notes is because a chemist at 3M, Spencer Silver, spent years trying fruitlessly to promote his low-tack adhesive in and around the office — until a churchgoing colleague, Art Fry, finally saw one of his presentations and realized the sticky stuff would be perfect for keeping his bookmarks affixed to his hymnals. Propinquity made all the difference.
Click here to read the complete article online at the New York Times, Jennifer Senior, Opinion columnist