by Emma Beddington TheGuardian.com
If they want us back, will we go? And how can managers make workplaces more enticing? Emma Beddington wonders if office life will ever be the same again.
My husband is standing in the kitchen, asking me if his shirt is stained. He looks different: clean-shaven, sharper. I like it. “I think it’s just the light,” I say. “It’s fine.” He changes anyway, then comes in again, looking preoccupied. “I don’t know whether these trousers work,” he says. “What would you usually wear?” I ask. “My Japanese jeans,” he replies. “But I’ve been wearing them every day for about six months.” “No, not those,” I agree. “Have you found an Oyster card?”
He’s heading back to the office. It’s not even his own, but a client’s – his regular co-working space was another casualty of Covid. He went into an office on an almost daily basis for 20-plus years, but now doing so has the intimidating aura of a polar expedition. Will he get blisters wearing proper shoes? Can he locate a respectable notebook? Will he know what to say when he gets there?
The office is – possibly – back. Finally, the things that horrendously ill-conceived Dettol advert promised us last summer – “Proper bants. The boss’s jokes. Office gossip” – are within reach. Various high-profile organisations are making noises about getting “back to normal”. There were shockwaves when Google announced it expected staff back on-site from September and anyone wishing to work remotely for more than 14 days a year would have to request it formally. “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new, so we don’t see that changing,” declared CEO Sundar Pichai.
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