How have offices shaped our lives and what to do about it?
May 24, 2023
The world has been treating an office building as a synonym of words such as work, job, career, or employment. Books, movies and commercials have spread an image of a powerful boss in a big, glass building, commuting to work in a limousine with a private driver. Wow. This is success. …At least this is what most people were subconsciously trained to believe after having such images surrounding them on a daily basis.
Let’s start from the beginning, though. You have to graduate from a good school to get a decent entry-level job. So, in other words – you must start making decisions about your future life when you’re a teenager. In most cases, your parents will actually make the decision for you when you’re still a little child. It will most probably be based on their social and financial status. The only thing you need to do is follow a certain approach that’s considered “normal”, “sensible” and “wise”. Without asking yourself questions about what you really want, need or like, you’re already falling into a social pattern that drives your future. It’s good for you. It has to be good for you as that’s “the way we do it”.
No deeper thinking needed.
The one size fits all office-first approach
Many years have gone by. You’re already part of the one size fits all system. If you studied hard and you had a little bit of luck, you now have a decent job that allows you to climb the corporate ladder. Congrats – you made it! If you follow the rules and you deliver results that bring in more money, there are chances you’ll get a promotion. Oh, you also have to arrive early and stay late in the office. This way everyone will “see” your dedication. Then, you can afford a better apartment (that you won’t have time to enjoy) and a better car (to commute to the office). Moreover, everyone will start looking at you and your success, envying how far you’ve gone. They want to be there too. They also want the same.
The only problem is that nobody asked how you really feel. At least, you don’t seem to be exhausted as you’re now a role model. You can’t possibly be exhausted. It’s a no brainer that today’s world cares most about your title and social status. The only problem is that at some point you secretly start dreaming about a break to embrace short, meaningful moments. Like having a cup of coffee while breathing fresh air, instead of getting another drive-through one on your way to the office. Hearing your newborn child speak the first words. Spending some time with your older parents who don’t live in the city. Time goes by so fast…
And exactly here you’re having the first clash.
You may now realize that you had to compromise your whole life. It’s either business or your personal needs. You can’t have both. A serious job requires a serious approach. That’s why you keep juggling very hard every day to make it all work. I mean, this is exactly THE dream life everyone desires. You’ve seen it yourself in movies, TV series and commercials. You start wondering – “What am I doing wrong?”.
Surrounded by surreal expectations
At some point in my life, I myself started wondering how these parents from beautiful Hollywood productions have the time to go jogging in the morning, eat breakfast with the whole family, have a chat, drive to work in minutes (with no traffic!), socialize, eat dinner with their relatives and go to bed with smiles on their faces. Come on, as far as I know, every day has just 24 hours and such an agenda isn’t realistic at all. You know this too. Think about it.
Let’s not forget about incentives. Free meals, lunches, or yoga classes in a super modern skyscraper. Well, this is supposed to make you feel VERY special. It doesn’t matter if you spend numerous hours commuting, you have to organize expensive support to take care of your kids after school or you sometimes even have to relocate to another city, leaving loved ones behind. Nope. This isn’t part of the success story.
The future of work is the future of living
Needless to say, the past few years have turned the world of work upside down. The impossible suddenly became possible – people started working outside the office. Of course, in most cases companies were dealing with an overnight, emergency shift without a strategy. No wonder that many experiments failed, and companies have requested people to come back to offices full time.
However, something has irrevocably changed. The interest of office-first perks has dropped significantly. According to a study conducted by the Future Forum “93% of workers want flexibility”. Should companies blame them for willing to lead a healthy, meaningful and purposeful life? Do they have to keep compromising their lives for a mainstream social pattern that doesn’t seem to fit into today’s digital era and generational changes? Should big cities still be the only gateway to having a career?
Today’s expectations towards “work” are different than in the industrial era. The fact that something worked well in the past doesn’t mean it will serve its purpose today. The big question is – how will business owners and companies live up to people’s expectations? Well, one thing is clear. They have the power to make the quality of their lives better. But they can also make it worse. It’s that simple.
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