The pandemic forced even those who had never done it, to adopt the smart work which, undoubtedly, offers some advantages to users, companies, to the resolution of some general problems such as traffic, leisure, to some extent problems of pollution, etc.
The question is: will the office be another victim of Covid-19?
In a sense, the “death” of the office was long overdue. In the 1960s, the futurist Melvin Webber predicted that the world would reach a “post-city” era in which it would be possible to be on top of a mountain and maintain realistic and intimate contact in real-time with the company and colleagues. The Internet has made that future seem closer. Once the distances have been canceled, logic would like offices, and by extension cities, to become irrelevant.
Where strong ties tend to form dense and overlapping networks, the weak ties connect us to a larger and more diverse group of people.
The impression is that we are getting to this point: the jobs that once needed a shared workplace can be carried out at home as it happens during this pandemic, even if, despite the progress made in the field of communication technologies, relating oneself with colleagues remotely often proves more difficult than meeting in person. And the problem goes beyond waiting times or interruptions of any kind. As sociology teaches us, functioning societies are based not only on strong ties (close relationships) but also on weak ties (random knowledge). Where strong ties tend to form dense and overlapping networks, the weak ties connect us to a larger and more diverse group of people.
By connecting different social circles, weak bonds are more likely to improving connections with new ideas and perspectives, questioning our preconceptions and encouraging innovation and its diffusion. While on the one hand video chat or social media can help us maintain our strong ties, it is unlikely that new ones will be produced, not to mention the fact that we connect with many people outside our social circle: bartenders, transporting passengers, colleagues we don’t work with directly, and so on.
Perhaps in the future, it will be possible to imitate physical serendipity and form weak links online, but to date, online platforms seem not equipped to do so. And offices, which facilitate deeper interactions between different people, can be a particularly effective remedy.
Companies would do well, therefore, not to completely avoid offices, both for their own good (new, innovative and collaborative ideas are essential for success) and for the well-being of the society in which they operate. They could allow employees to stay at home more often, while at the same time taking action and taking steps to ensure that time spent in the office is conducive to strengthening weak ties.
Obviously, it must be understood that companies would not have an interest in keeping the costs of a structure similar to the old offices with people at home most of the time. This means designing suitable structures to enhance the ability to cultivate even weak bonds, for example, through more open and dynamic spaces, based on events and which encourage more convivial relationships, than formal ones.
The challenge is therefore to exploit the physical space so that we can descend from our isolated summits in order to strengthen even weak and occasional bonds.
I hope to have attracted the attention and the thought of so many qualified professionals who follow this extraordinary group.
Any comment is really appreciated!