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Will we ever go back to the office full time?

For many people, the pattern of working life was well-established. They got up on a Monday morning, ate some breakfast and travelled into work. They exchanged news around the proverbial water-cooler, sat in meetings and came home again in the evening. Rinse and repeat.

Then, on March 23rd last year, the UK went into lockdown. Suddenly, millions were working from home.

Commentators were quick to proclaim ‘the end of the office.’ Studies quickly emerged showing that people were actually more productive working from home. No-one missed the daily commute and lunch eaten in the garden in April and May was a lot more fun than trekking to the nearest deli.

Even more importantly, Millennials and Generation Z, the demographic cohorts that were making up more and more of the workforce, were getting what they wanted; flexible working and a much-improved work/life balance.

Company after company announced that working from home would continue indefinitely. Finance directors looked at income and expenditure statements and wondered if they really needed that expensive building with all the desks and chairs and the giant jar of coffee every fortnight.

We’re now in lockdown 3. For those who have only been part of the workforce for a few years, a significant portion of their working life may have been spent working from home. And yet it does appear that the proclamation ‘the death of the office’ may have been a bit premature. Even introverts are reported to be missing the chat around the water-cooler.

Many people are finding that they simply cannot work from home effectively in the long-term, as they juggle the competing demands of work, childcare and a relationship.

There are also increasing worries that working from home is making us less creative. Steve Jobs famously said that offices were about creativity and collaboration: that much of Apple’s success came from chance meetings in the office. As many of us have noticed, chance meetings do not happen on Zoom.

So as the vaccine is rolled-out, many people are missing the office, but don’t bet against its disappearance just yet…


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