Workers aren’t going back to the office and employers only have themselves to blame


So the stats show people aren’t going back to the office. Big problem. But let’s be honest employers have had this showdown coming for some time.

The unspoken truth is that many people don’t want to go back to work and who can blame them.

Let’s start with the open plan office.

Democratic – office designers tell us, creates a collegiate atmosphere. Rubbish. The reality, before coronavirus struck, was offices across London crammed with as many humans as physically possible.

So open was the office everyone could hear every person’s little problem, from the row over a mistake made to trouble picking up the kids.

These conversations are only relevant to the individuals involved and only the large glass corner offices are spared the tedious details.

At one City investment bank where the workers still have their own individual offices, the atmosphere is far more adult.

Everybody knocks on one another’s doors and they interact like proper grown ups.

Having spent an afternoon there I thought I’d entered the set of the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy film – no doubt grown up plotting and backstabbing occurs too.

There’s no excuse for the lack of imagination.

Beautiful office buildings have gone up all over London in the past ten years but walk into any of them and the layout is exactly the same. The generic battery hen look.

Let’s move onto tech. Offices are now inundated with email and every other form of instant messenger.

It is possible to send the same message on four different tech platforms to the person sitting right next to you. Why?

As for the current fashionable instant messaging system Slack, I met the founder Stewart Butterfield in San Francisco earlier this year.

Nice enough guy for a tech billionaire but not exactly in the people person category.

When I asked him about the fact his instant messaging service had become more of a hindrance for workers rather than a help he said it was up to companies to create their own Slack culture, before demonstrating how emojis can be used on the platform to make communication easier between employees.

The lesson: be careful what you implement in your office, sometimes even founders don’t know what they’ve created.

As a result of all this “communication” employees rarely go for lunch with one another or a drink after work.

Ask anybody who worked thirty years ago and the after work drink was the only reason they ever took the train in from Woking in the first place.

My advice to firms that still have money after all this – bring in a designer. Create better personal spaces and ditch most of the real time tech.

Or, alas, your workers will be working from home long after coronavirus has become a footnote in history.