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Why The Future of Work Depends on Going “Back to the Future”

Offices were initially designed with workers in mind. Everyone had a private Oasis of focus and isolation in which they controlled how they would work. Don’t want to be bothered? You’d close the door. It was a place where you went to work, to avoid distraction and do your job. That you had space to quietly concentrate on the task at hand was the entire purpose of the office in the first place, it’s exactly what it had been designed for.

Cost savings inspired a new way

Real estate costs were rising so offices got smaller. Eventually, disappearing altogether, replaced by more modern spaces and a culture of open-plan working. Some managers were granted their own offices, but the vast majority of people operated from within a room where everyone sat together and did their job. The problem this has caused has been obscured technological progress. Rather than obvious losses in productivity being spotted as this transition has occurred, computers and digitization have allowed companies to avoid the truth. Open-plan offices are terrible in every single measurable way, aside from the bottom line. Offices no longer perform the purpose that they were designed for and now exist as a means for most companies to satisfy its surveillance culture.

Call a meeting with 30 executive and nobody bats an eyelid.
Put 300 workers in a situation where comfortable operation and performance of duties is impossible and no questions will ever be asked

The modern workplace is more of a prison than a platform to do your best work. And then co-working spaces emerged… Not only are you distracted by people you know but the natural fight or flight reaction is engaged constantly as new people emerge to occupy every conceivable space in your building. As the average sq.ft per worker has plummeted, the quality of experience for a worker has fallen ever more precariously.

Now, to get any work done, you need noise-canceling headphones. I’ve seen developers take to sticking signs on the back of their chairs because the constant barrage of people starting inane conversation is too much.

Lost in all of this is the adjective of what we are supposed to be doing — work means working in a situation where doing any work has become impossible

Synchronous working has hijacked every individual's ability to do their job. By placing every worker in a situation where noise, bustle, and universal accessibility are the default, everyone interrupts anyone letting nobody do very much of anything they are supposed to be doing. Everyone is busy creating things which distract other people, leading to a cycle of busyness where almost nothing gets done.

People take extreme measures to get things done

Weekend working isn’t a badge of honour — it’s a cry for help.
Getting into the office at 5am is a need for solitude — to get shit done.
Staying late’s a symptom of a workplace’s disease — universal distraction.

Being isolated in your own remote office is a feature, not a bug.

At a time when technology offers instantaneous gratification at the speed your thumb scrolls a news feed, alternatives are few and far between. The average length of workday stays the same, while technology has enabled us to maintain the facade of productivity. We can do the same volume of work more quickly so we have no need to change.

Technological progress has enabled one solution which would allow us to return to the future of the past. Private office space where every worker is able to focus on their own work, rather than entertaining colleagues. Rather than being available the full 8 hours that we are in the office each day, every worker would control how often, and in which way, they would respond to external requests. Rather than being in an office and getting work done for 2 of the 8 hours a day, you have more freedom to plan your day the way which make you most productive.

Gone are the arbitrary constraints of expected desk hours

Replaced by metrics for measurable productivity

Working in an office is a remnant of the industrial revolution that understands none of the technological trends that have driven the rise of our current reality. It is no longer necessary in any way, massively wasteful from almost every standpoint, while there are far better options that lead to a higher quality of life for everyone involved.

Remote working will enable companies to distribute office space to workers homes. Every worker will have the freedom to control how they work and understand what they have to get done. Superfast internet has emerged to a point where this is possible, coupled with every other innovation that makes remote working not just an option but preferable.

That means going back to the future

An office, at home, for everyone.

Workers that are as safe, comfortable and productive there at they could be in an office. A higher quality of life, lover cost of living, and deeper purpose and meaning from spending more time doing the things we love.

That is the future

Written by

CEO / Founder / Coach @FirstbaseHQ Empowering people to work in their lives not live at work ✌️✌

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