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Why it’s time for many of us to farewell the office

I recall a boss who was promoted from a department head to senior executive management. I asked him how his work had changed. He said in his previous role his time was never his own and everyone “wanted a piece” of him.

In the new role, there was less pressure from other people but more pressure due to the significance of his decisions. I recall another boss who was so harassed by his staff that he resorted to meeting me in a food court of a shopping centre, mobile phone switched off. I kid you not, on one occasion, he was paged over the tannoy by his secretary. Being in an office, especially an open-plan office or one with an open-door policy, can be the death knell of productivity.

Perhaps we will see another feature of office life abate, the habit of going in on the weekend. For the ambitious creeps, being seen by one’s hardworking boss on a Saturday did no harm to one’s prospects. For others, the weekend was the only time they could catch up on all of the work that had slipped due to having to deal with other people throughout the regular working week.


IllustrationCredit:Kerrie Leishman

As ever with work, a good starting principle is the one that the Atlassian boss professes – giving individuals as much discretion and personal control over how they do their work as is practically possible. This work design principle has been demonstrated to be one of the most potent interventions to reduce workplace stress and enhance mental wellbeing.

This means that clearly some people will find working in an office environment far more to their liking and they may well be more productive, and better adjusted, because of it. For others, being able to work from home may be a highly valued option. Of course, as we are talking about human beings, these preferences may change over time and circumstances. The home-worker may start having cravings for an office for any number of reasons.

There is another, as yet unremarked, consequence of being away from the office. Given that studies report the office is the source of many a new relationship and the odd extramarital affair, how will the desperate and dateless cope? I assume when Mike Cannon-Brookes was espousing the creative possibilities of the office, he was referring to the more mundane work-related creative liaisons!

Jim Bright, FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy. Email to Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright

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