Will coronavirus really going to kill office life as we know it?

Twitter is allowing employees to work from home “forever.” A number of big banks are contemplating never fully refilling their office towers in Manhattan. Last week, my colleague Matthew Haag wrote a thoroughly depressing story in which the chiefexecutive of Halstead Real Estate asked him point blank: “Looking forward, are people going to want to crowd into offices?” Call me crazy, but I’m still thinking: Yes. The modern office may be the target of bleak caricature — the lighting is bad, the meetings are long, the only recourse to boredom is filching a colleague’s stapler and embalming it in lemon Jell-O (if you work at Dunder Mifflin). But over the coming months, I suspect that those of uswho spent most of our careers in offices will grow to miss them. For people in that liminal period of emergent adulthood — when they’re still schmoozers, rather than machers, to use the sociologist RobertPutnam’s memorable distinction — the office can play a crucial and happy role. Without offices, we miss out on the chance for serendipitous encounters, and it’s precisely those moments of felicitous engagement that spark the best ideas. To compensate this, include a few quick exercises like stretching, skipping or jumping jacks before you start work or in between during breaks. Try to restrict yourself to a secluded part of your home so that neither does your routine affect that of the others in the house, nor do their activities disrupt your concentration. You could also use noise cancelling headphones or ear buds to block the cacophony of family members, traffic and phones or the television. Sitting at the same spot everyday will enhance concentration as it will help in setting psychological boundaries and keep you from getting distracted by any unfinished task other than work, such as laundry or vacuuming. This will help you manage workload and meet deadlines the same way when you are not working from your office, keeping the work-life balance intact. While adjusting into the workflow, focus on the amount of work that you can complete and feel satisfied with, instead of aiming too high. Decide on a common platform that everyone could use from their respective work spaces to share regular updates about projects. Even though face-to-face communication cannot be replaced by online chats, one could tackle this by setting up groups such as “water-cooler chats” or “celebrate birthdays groups” to feel more involved with colleagues and friends. The facilities include working laptops, chargers, headsets, antivirus and antimalware software, to name a few. Worrying about the safety of your loved ones and friends amid a pandemic could adversely affect the spirits of people working from home, who are also vying to maintain productivity and professionalism. Keep stress and panic at bay by establishing a proper communication network with your colleagues, especially superiors. Another way to think about this: Working from home rather than the office is sort of like shopping on Amazon rather than in a proper bookstore. We live in an age where our identities aren’t merely assigned to us; they are realized and achieved, and places are powerful triggers of them. Offices are often the very place where professional identities are forged — an especially valuable thing in an age of declining religious engagement and deferred marriage and childbearing. Yes, perhaps that’s slightly ominous, just another depressing sign that work has replaced religion as asource of meaning, as Derek Thompson argued so beautifully in The Atlantic last year.