Is the office dead, or is it just different?

Earlier this week, Ollie and Magenta’s newest recruit, Steven, went to the Herman Miller Insight Group at the company’s London HQ to discuss if the office really is ‘dead’. Some 50 individuals joined the seminar at the trendy central London location, lead by Mark Catchlove of Herman Miller; to engage in some incredibly insightful, thought-provoking conversation about the past, present and future office.

Opening the session, Mark got everyone in the room to stand up and introduce their name, not their job/company, but instead – their favourite hobby, and what they’d love to change about their workplace. (I learned that my companion is also attending Isle of Wight Festival this year…)  A very engaging and unique way to break the initial ice of a room full of almost-total-strangers. He then quickly moved onto one of his first points – the example of the ‘Fika’ – the Swedish tradition, where employees are effectively forced to take a short coffee break together just to chat. A lovely concept which I firmly believe should be enforced in offices all around the world.

The next topic of discussion was inevitable and necessary. Remote workers. The rise has been unprecedented in recent years, and there’s no signs of it slowing up any time soon either. Technology is without doubt the driving factor behind the demand for remote, flexible working in offices today in 2018. With the likes of 4K video, smart speakers, integrated video conferencing software and now even 5G internet on the not-too-distant horizon; I think it’s fair to say that the workforce of today expect the option to remotely work now, no questions asked. Catchlove supported these thoughts – by weighing up the likely arguments for and against working in and out of the office. One of the main issues which was mentioned, was the cost. More so than not, employers are reluctant to agree to the initial expenditures of supporting remote working, because of the uncertainty of results, issues of trust, and the sheer cost of implementing the necessary technology. However, he insisted, “you have to invest time, money, retraining, rethinking, readjusting. It requires two-way trust between employer and employee.”

Following some further discussions, questions and other examples of workplace studies, including the fantastic Leesman Index, the challenges and successes of co-working spaces, and smart speakers coming to the office, he concluded the seminar with some of his favourite quotes relating to the workplace. These included:

– “The office isn’t dead, it’s just becoming far more fluid.” – David D’Souza
“The business of people talking to each other in offices is a very serious consideration. It is by far, the most expensive achievement of offices: the grouping of people that allows conversational exchange” – Robert Propst
“The office isn’t dead, it just smells funny” – Ulf Boman 

The session was phenomenally interesting for all of us there, particularly for Steve and . Both relatively new to the PR and workplace scene, we gladly absorb as much information as possible at events such as these. A real stand-out quote for me personally, was by Mark himself half way through the seminar. He stated: “never make assumptions about what motivates people. A sense of purpose is an incredibly personal thing for people.” Which I found a truly touching and thought-provoking comment. I challenge you to now go away and think about what motivates you, and what gives you purpose too.

Thank you to all at Herman Miller for the fantastic event. Check out their other events here.


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Ben Keeley