• Wendy

We want to go back to our workmates - don't we?

Are the words COVID and WORK FROM HOME threatening to burn a hole in your brain? Hands up if you knew the acronym WFH 12 months ago?

The discussions regarding workplace environments have become a constant in our everyday, an irritating hum in our lives, almost an equivalent of tinnitus.

And while we have finally got from the kitchen table to an organised, efficient home office there still begs an answer as to how we transition back to our actual offices, where we hot-desk or sit in our workstation pods, next to Dave, across from Mary.

There’s every chance we will one day return to a collective work-place, but it will be a place that has changed beyond all previous imaginings.

And do we want to return to the fold? Do we in New Zealand, have less fear of returning to the office than the people in say, the UK or the USA?

Our first tentative moves back are more likely to be greeted with basic changes, designed to make us feel safe and allay any fears.

Albert De Plazaola is the global strategy director at design firm Unispace.

Based in San Fransisco, De Plazaola has worked with Facebook and Yahoo! and believes many major fitouts will be put on hold due to deep uncertainty.

“There's a flurry of activity, but it’s purely focused on tactical solutions. No one is willing to invest a significant sum on solutions that could be rendered ineffective [by our increased understanding of Covid-19, or a vaccine] in six-months’ time. What you will see are small, targeted hits – almost surgical interventions – that will provide employees with a sense of safety.”

And running alongside that uncertainty, are mounting contradictions in not only the virus itself but in its treatment and management.

Architect Blaine Brownell highlights an interesting contradiction in a recent Architect magazine.

‘In Lost Connections: : Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope (Bloomsbury, 2018), author Johann Hari recounts a study conducted by professor Sheldon Cohen in which he determined that isolated individuals are three times more likely to catch a cold virus than those with many close contacts to other people. And yet, health-motivated social distancing guidelines threaten community connections in a variety of ways, including prohibited assemblies, curtailed chance encounters, and restricted face-to-face interchanges. These practices may reduce the spread of contagion but can cause other health problems.’

So, we want to go back to the office, but we don’t want anyone actually near us. We would rather just look at them from afar but get to think we’re part of a team, possibly best spelt as T – E – A – M.

We’ll be altogether but suitable spaced.

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