In the mid-2000s there was a show on The History Channel, Life After People, in which experts speculated on how long it would take for Mother Nature to reclaim our civilized spaces. The dramatic ending of the show quipped, “Welcome to Earth… population zero,” cue the ominous music…
And while that certainly is not what we’re facing (although the pandemic had us all wondering, if even briefly) we are facing a huge pivot. With our workweek shrinking and more people working from home than ever before, I can’t help but wonder how this is going to change our lives on a grand scale.
I grew up in NYC and pivoting was part of life. It was a big city. You were always figuring it out and on the go, in a sense. Men in suits and women, clicking heels along the sidewalk, hurried to their meetings and lunches. A giant ecosystem of busyness from every angle – paper coffee cups in hand and briefcases holding who knows what.
The Current Space
We saw this slow down during the pandemic, a halt to the busy business crowd, as so many worked from home but now that we are bouncing back from the pandemic and people are getting back to their lives, not everyone is going back to work. In fact, the five-day workweek is dying off with office attendance at only 33% of what it was prior to the pandemic. We aren’t even talking about fully returning to work anymore. Those conversations have pivoted into talks about how to make hybrid schedules work.
The Physical Space
This massive change in our work week and whether or not we commute to an office space brings new conversations to corporations, about whether they will go for less office space or accept that their office space will sit unused for portions of every week. Financially, sustainability will be at the forefront of these conversations and the physical space itself comes into the mainframe. And those people who won’t be in their offices, won’t be stepping out for lunch or riding the subway, which brings along an entirely new set of questions and concerns. In places with housing shortages, offices transforming into apartment spaces will be an added benefit. Transit systems raising prices to maintain their budget is a potential pitfall.
The Mental Space
In terms of well-being, there is a collective fear that the less we experience our company’s culture, the less connected we feel to that place, and the easier it will become to jump around. Corporations are already experiencing such an extreme mass exodus, maintaining their own workforce could prove to be a really big problem. New York Governor Kathy Hochul called on business leaders to tell everyone to come back to work, suggesting that NYC can’t be run from our homes and corporations should offer a bonus for those willing to “burn the Zoom app”.
What will happen to our cities when the workweek as we know it dies off? Will the space take on a new life?
The Future Space
Resilience is architecting a very different future before our eyes. How can we contribute to these growths in a Change Proof way, so the change is positive and sustainable? How do we meet in the middle of the demands and the requirements so that our cities take on a new hustle and bustle that serves the greater good?
One thing is for certain – we are required to shape our leadership and be more adaptable to change than ever before. The routine built into our lives, that we watched our parents participate in, maybe even our grandparents, is slipping away, being replaced with options that have the potential to actually offer us the work-life balance everyone has been talking about for two decades. How well we adjust to this new way of life will be determined by whether or not we are willing to flow with the change, and use it to our benefit.