Death, resurrection and the office water-cooler.

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
29,517
Twitter
No
*Embargoed until 0530am Saturday morning 12th of October 2019*

Pleased to be able to confirm the approaching death of offices as a concept. I don't think offices will exist in 20 to 30 years time. As someone who has had to work in a few I look forward most fervently to reading the obituary on this infamous historical blight on humanity.

If I'm right and the emerging dynamics of a much more fluid and home based culture settle in it is inevitable that this will have interesting economic effects. The arse will fall right out of at least one corner of the property market, but probably over an extended period of the next few decades so we won't notice it too much and that process is slow enough to bring with it a newer and better dynamic where this invention of Mr Beelzebub will be replaced by something more useful and may even allow for some much nicer environmental changes off high streets.

The emerging generation of corporate officers are much more likely to be wearing jeans, no ties, keep records of their doings in the Cloud and can work from anywhere in the world with a coffee machine nearby. You may well be a colleague to someone for five years and never meet them in person. Skype and the digital transformation of the way we work means offices as a concept in and of themselves are doomed. Productivity can be measured so working from home is becoming more popular as a thing both casually and as a long term option. Companies fought shy of it for a long time, fearing they'd end up paying someone five days pay for three days work. Now that everyone is becoming more comfortable with metrics and productivity in home-working, companies may be beginning to wonder about the model that says at a certain stage they should acquire a building in which people can meet and read powerpoint presentations to each other about the history of the company and its long association with the building they are all sitting in (yawn).

So why should companies pay property taxes, pay for lighting, heating and repairs to a building which costs them a hundred pounds per square metre of space just so Joe in Accounts Receivable can goof off playing PGA golf on his company supplied computer, at his desk and chair also paid for by the company, arrive late four days out of five because the supporting commuter infrastructure is finally beginning to wear out since the Victorian days and there is a schedule of meetings between the 12 companies involved in getting Joe to the office every day don't want to pay anything toward updating the infrastructure because their shareholders would squeal and the value of the pension funds Joe has been contributing to for the last 25 years would drop.

Sooner or later, and probably sooner than later as there is money involved, the referee will call time on the office model of being and various tribes will be lost to the march of that time. There be a huge cultural change a-coming. Anyhow, I'd like to be the first to announce this news. It is a definite thing and will happen. It IS happening by degrees as we speak.
 


McTell

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 16, 2012
Messages
7,261
Twitter
No
If the office dies, as factories have died, then we are left with warehousing around the cities.

The better off will be out in the sticks. The cities full of home workers living and working in the one cage.

What with AI, even home workers will have less to do. Physical labour is undervalued. Humans will be spending a lot more time on non-automatable stuff like haute cuisine and having great sex, gardening and cycling, which is not a bad trade off.
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
29,517
Twitter
No
It is going to have ripple effects around society, I suspect. Just looking at the property market element of it, how many offices are there in the infrastructure of our cities?

Imagine the effect on Hong Kong and the skyline although the great office buildings could easily become residential property again. The property market does have a remarkable ability to morph out of one guise and into another.

The cities becoming places to live again rather than places to work is not such a bad thing. Skyscraper skylines may not change very much but it would be nice to think of cities becoming quieter and less manic places. If more people work from home do we end up with a sort of sweatshop society built around meeting your metrics on the home computer and gradually becoming slaves to a faceless master?

Or do we end up with a remarkably beneficial effect where urban life becomes less stressful, better social interaction occurs, less pressure on young couples to run two jobs to get on some specious ladder, and their anxieties transferring to their children subliminally in the way these things do... it will certainly have the dynamic ability to change society at least as we in the west currently understand it.
 

recedite

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 20, 2010
Messages
1,956
Or do we end up with a remarkably beneficial effect where urban life becomes less stressful, better social interaction occurs, less pressure on young couples to run two jobs to get on some specious ladder, and their anxieties transferring to their children subliminally in the way these things do... it will certainly have the dynamic ability to change society at least as we in the west currently understand it.
Probably, yes. There would still be the same amount of people, but not all heading out at the same time every morning on a long trek, crisscrossing each others paths, and getting in each other's way.
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
29,517
Twitter
No
The impact on commuting would be extreme. It is daft when you think about it in logistical terms. Why have a situation where you are deliberately trying to create a bottleneck by having untold thousands of people all heading for the same small area of a city, enjoying that bottleneck twice a day at least, and experiencing stress levels within humans at probably astronomical levels.

You wouldn't do it if arranging a logistics delivery system so why do it with humans? Doesn't make sense. And there is no technological barrier at all right now against home-working over heading into the office.

Then should that change relatively rapidly what would be the economic effect at those bottlenecks where people instinctively buy some form of comfort food or welcome distraction from the high stress levels of being crammed in a noisy place with lots of other unknown humans who could be serial killers, ISIS fans or QPR fans for example.

Lots of little coffee booths shuttered, cafe's knackered for business from the old train or underground station, or the Luas in Dublin given over almost entirely to the city's infamous urchins for their ongoing All-Ireland Train Surfin' Championships. Keeps them out of mischief I suppose and at least they'd have a response to old farts who insist that in their day they made their own fun...
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
29,517
Twitter
No
The other side of the coin might be that ordinary sane people could take over the train system once again rather than the caravanserai of people forced by the mortgage to endure misery for hours each week just to pay thousands each year to be delivered to a job they hate with people they quietly despise. And then develop blood pressure issues over the years from suppressing all that.

People used to go on train rides for fun. The rail system is now so reduced to being a commuter only service that a whole leisure sector railways used to encourage has been pretty much abandoned like spur lines to small beach railway stations.

The rail system, if commuting began to die, would probably have to start reviving itself as a tourism and leisure sector amenity and might become a slightly better experience than the assault and battery course it currently is.
 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
1,400
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com
Arthur C Clarke was predicting all this [or close enough] back in the early 70s

- technologically it is doable and is being done on a limited scale.

But the Human condition predicates against it ever going mainstream

Workers need Managers for problem solving and yes good ol discipline to maintain order

121 interaction between workers is almost always more efficient than remote contact.

Having worked in Offices for years and indeed dealt with people remotely working for the same Company in other locations both home and abroad there is not doubt that face to face works best.

That being said automation and AI means less workers who are hired for their brainpower will be needed in future.

Semi skilled manual labourers are probably the cohorts that will survive the best the next waves of innovation in work place relations.
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
29,517
Twitter
No
Well the AI debate is an interesting one but while there are examples of 'decision tree' automation within the asset management sector and in particular the 'black box' hedge-funders and other high octane activities we are a long way away from AI that would pass the Turing test.

There is an annoying a very visible effort by a lot of organisations trumpeting their use of emerging AI when really we are talking about things like predictive text and decision tree responses from audio software in computers and so on.

At the moment the best use for algorithms is in high speed amendment within set parameters such as in the black box asset management sector, and in things like Google Deep Mind's ability to analyse huge datasets and suggest amended systems processes which might well accelerate medical research, for example, or analyse disease vectors rapidly.

I've had to analyse some web-crawler software to see if it is useful, validating and beta-testing some services in this line, and while the breadth of data they can handle and analyse is impressive it is short on the necessary associations that a human mind can spot when reviewing the data. The error rate is too high in the scoring of certain data points and the result is that these systems throw out false positives that the human mind can detect.

We're a long way off AI making lots of people redundant. The 'decision tree' automation isn't quite right yet and requires human supervision and oversight and probably will do for some time. But ultimately I'd agree that AI and robotics will change the human experience of life substantially. That is inescapable as an approaching dynamic.

The question of whether human masters AI or AI masters humanity is ultimately a good question but then most people through history have had their lives framed for them by dynamics controlled by people they'll never meet so would it mean the new Master would at least be efficient?
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
29,517
Twitter
No
I'm still battling that one... rarely print anything and there's no paper on my desk. It does make me cringe to see abandoned 34 page A3 printouts with six duplicates carelessly buttoned as well.
 

CatullusV

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 9, 2018
Messages
5,432
The last few clients I had all encouraged teleworking. Some for two or three days a week, and a couple for 100% of the time. I've seen figures bounced around suggesting that an occupancy figure of two people per desk can be achieved. This, of course, means that large companies can reduce their real estate footprint and make significant savings on rent, electricity, facilities and security staff, cleaners etc.

Working from home is of great benefit to me, in particular when the office is in another country. It's not simply feasible any more. The use of Skype, VOIP, internal chat tools etc means that there are almost too many means of contacting you.
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
29,517
Twitter
No
I wonder if I went on a sprouts only diet would the office be inclined to look favourably on the suggestion that I join the recluse wing by working from home more.

Probably.
 

death or glory

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 1, 2012
Messages
20,091
I wonder if I went on a sprouts only diet would the office be inclined to look favourably on the suggestion that I join the recluse wing by working from home more.

Probably.
I would judge by your posts that most of the office would already want you too work from home more.
 

Half Nelson

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
21,430
Working from home has one big drawback - for many people it can be a very lonely or isolating experience.
It can be difficult to stay motivated when your only human contact is through a monitor or headphones. Qualities such as loyalty quickly slide into not giving a fig outside of the cheque.

Working from home is not for everybody; I'd say it's not even for the majority.
 


New Threads

Most Replies

Top