Opening up the workplace

Technology is helping organisations return to work safely but, whichever way you look at it, working in an office may never be the same again.


Missing the office? It feels weird to be writing about the reinvented workplace as we ease into the weekend but as lockdown restrictions are loosened, or disappear entirely in the likes of New Zealand, attention will increasingly be turned to where we spend a third of our week (at least).


Many of us are missing the utterly banal; the busywork that allows us to chat to colleagues, the bad coffee, moaning about a coworker (who isn’t actually that bad a person) in the kitchen, the condemned slump to yet another meeting. The community of the office is not to be underestimated. Oh yes, there’s also the work itself. That’s quite important.


SmartCitiesWorld has been a remote workplace for most of its existence with employees dialling in from various parts of the UK (the Welsh coast in my case). The Friday social drinks over Zoom, video meetings between colleagues and clients, and chats over Teams about weekend plans or how our loved ones are doing have been part of our lives for some time. But for many, this has been a new experience and a somewhat disorienting one.


The return to the office will be the same. The variety of social distancing measures most countries are implementing range from the nostalgic for some (the return of the cubicle) to the bizarre (toe-kicking replacing the conventional handshake).


Technology companies are beginning to bring their own solutions to market, in addition to commercial real estate companies – you can see the concept of the



This week we reported on the Safe Workplace solution, enabling a range of cameras, sensors and devices that will help protect employee health. Crucially the solution is open, allowing future services to be plugged in. So much of coronavirus is unknown but it seems reasonable to predict that its effects will continue to evolve and affect our lives in ways we haven’t realised. We will need to respond to that in all aspects of our lives.


Open architectures have aided our lives in so many ways – you wouldn’t be reading this newsletter if it wasn’t for the open nature of the World Wide Web that underpinned its ubiquity. Collaboration will be key if we are to weather the pending economic storm – the figures are staggering (a baseline forecast of a 5.2 per cent GDP fall according to the latest World Bank research) and will also prove a further and massive health risk through job losses and vanishing tax revenues.


Technology will help us ultimately work together – as you read from us daily, it’s transforming our cities and our workplaces are a vital part of that. It may not be in the way that we are used to but I imagine someone is working on a solution that gives us the equivalent of moaning about a colleague at the water cooler. My colleagues and I won’t need to use it, of course.


What I’m reading


Inside Jack Dorsey’s radical experiment for billionaires to give away their money (Recode)

We’re about to re-enter an office full of half-baked design prototypes (QZ)

The sharing economy will have to change (The Economist)

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