As people in England are told to return to the office, five Observer writers assess the impact of the last two years on work, home – and our wider social framework
I’ve read and thought more about office life over the last two years than I have at any time over the previous two decades when I worked in one. I say worked, but of course from this distance I can see that what I called office work might not quite stand up in a court of law, being comprised of equal amounts gossip, tea-runs and shouting passive aggressively at computers, alongside the clattery typing I am paid for.
There was a moment, in those early pandemic days, the days of shock and clapping, before the felt-tip rainbows in our windows faded to a ghostly grey, when the closure of offices felt like an opportunity. The future of work might find efficiency in compassion – it might not be focused on cities or require five-day weeks, or offices with dubious rat control. For many of us, once we had cleared a decent space at the kitchen table and evacuated our children, working from home for the first time in our lives was a revelation. Yet every day brought another small hurdle, a step forward in our psychosocial development.
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