Are we being too quick to abandon the physical office?


I signed up with a temping agency after graduating – I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do and needed to earn some money.  After sending me around a selection of advertising agencies I was sent to the Really Useful Group (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatre production company) as temporary secretary to the Head of Marketing.  I didn’t know that Arts Administration was even an option, but I loved it, stayed, got offered a permanent job, and that was the start of a 15 year career in theatre production, pr, marketing and management.


So going into different offices gave me the chance to find a career I loved but more than that, being in the office with older, successful professionals actually taught me HOW to do these jobs.  I listened to phone conversations, went along to meetings, visited the different box offices / ticket agents / ad agencies / theatres themselves and saw and heard all these different professionals at work.


How are people learning how to do their jobs?  Online mentoring and zoom meetings are  great, really valuable – but not the same as sitting in an office actually hearing different people engage, negotiate, present, make business cases and generally helping you find our own professional voice.


Jo and I were able to start CX Talent Ltd over eight years ago now because of our experience and interests – we had both been regularly recruited and been hiring managers and knew what worked and how to deal with people and their careers not as transactional target points but the real life events they are.  In addition we both had different but valuable understanding of customer experiences in different industries and were interested and connected enough to find out more.


Our careers would have looked very different without the real time exposure to our business environments.


What can we do to help young people starting their careers to broaden out their learning?  My feeling is that businesses will gradually bring back most of their workers for most of the week to an office environment despite all the early thinking that almost all staff who can do will start to WFH.


As well as the learning environment provided by the shared workspace there is also the creative and competitive buzz – of solving problems, innovating, sharing a laugh or encouraging each other along.


There are real issues for businesses to weigh up here – how much office square footage can be safely lost without loosing out to these other, difficult to quantify issues?  I hope that we are able to go into this change carefully and with consideration to future proofing in terms of long term resilience and keeping the pipeline of new talent on track.


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