The Future of Work is the Office

Lynden Swift
4 min readFeb 16, 2021


Over the last year I feel like we have been increasingly exposed to a certain growing cultural narrative via numerous articles, webinars, books and blog posts all championing remote working as the ‘new and future reality’; how Coronavirus has ‘changed the world’, has made us all ‘digital natives’ and how this is now the ‘future of work’.

Initially I definitely drank this Kool-Aid. This exciting new reality was how it was all going to be. How exciting and what new vistas would be opening up. Yet within a few months of lockdown I came to believe that this narrative was wrong. Reality was not matching what these evangelists were telling me. At best it appeared as hopeful or only applicable to a very limited demographic. I now believe that as soon as Coronavirus allows, people are going to flood back into offices and they are going to do so willingly and gladly. I believe that Coronavirus has turned more people away from remote working than it has attracted to it — from individuals to companies.

What makes me say this? Quite simply, my working experience. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of working from home. Before and during the first lockdown I lapped up what the gurus of remote working were telling me because it resonated with me. But as I began to help teams transition to working remotely for the first time ever, a disjunction began to occur.

It struck me that all (or at least the ones I came across) of the writers, blog posters, webinar hosts and general evangelists for home/remote working were young, white, mostly male and all very into their tech — especially as a means through which to mediate person to person contact. Nothing wrong with any of those qualities in themselves but it did mean that this specific group of people were not especially representative of the people I was managing or working with which in turn meant that their experiences, expertise and advice just didn’t map very well in terms of being relevant or useful for me or my teams. It seems so obvious now but I felt stupid at the time for not seeing the differences between the evangelists and my reality.

Even now I still don’t hear much from people talking about remote working who are from different cultural or age backgrounds, from different educational backgrounds, from those who hate having to deal with tech every day, from those who love being around people and loathe being alone, from those in different housing situations such as living with extended families or in shared houses with no communal space or where it is noisy, where they have children to look after or where their homes simply don’t have the physical space to appropriately work from. I hear about these types of experiences from friends and colleagues. I don’t hear these perspectives from online sources either from or for those in these kind of situations. Probably because people in such situations don’t much like working remotely. And such people are, I think, the majority.

Having managed geographically remote teams, teams transitioning from office work to remote work and worked with newly all remote teams, in my experience most people are not happy working remotely and miss office life desperately. They miss their colleagues, they miss the banter and they miss the ease of getting things done that working face to face naturally brings. They miss general office life in other words. The ones who are enjoying this current way of working are the exceptions.

Job vacancies I see are invariably stating ‘remote during covid’ or some such thing. Meaning — as soon as lockdown lifts, these companies want their employees back in the office pronto. I hear online moaning that these companies ‘just don’t get it’. And yet there are genuine reasons why they are wanting people to return to physical working together.

For one, I have to admit that everything is easier when done face to face. Just because we can do things over zoom doesn’t mean we should. Zoom is a very very poor relation to face to face. It can be useful if we have to work with someone on the other side of the world but using it to communicate with someone who lives on the other side of the same city? Not so much if we don’t have to.

Secondly, I think that you’re either in or you’re out. Github apparently operates entirely remotely and makes it work. Most places operate entirely face to face and make it work. There’s nothing worse than the ‘in-between place’. Hybrid models are the most difficult to operate and make work and generally they don’t. These companies wanting people back in the office after lockdown are making a wise decision. They’re avoiding the hybrid model.

While I think that Coronavirus will have shifted companies to being more open to letting people work from home on an ad hoc basis (after all, the tech is there now which was always the biggest excuse) I don’t think there is going to be a great shift in attitude from companies or employees to work remotely as a default position. In fact, just the opposite. Neither companies nor employees really want it now that they’ve experienced it.

I now believe that the great Coronavirus work from home experiment has turned more people off working from home than it has turned on to it. Come the lifting of lockdown people are going to want human contact again more than ever and work is where it’s going to happen.

Is this just a generational or cultural thing or is it something central to us as human beings? Is this just me or does this resonate with you as well? I can only report from my direct experience.