ONE of the many consequences of Covid-19 for companies has been to thrust them into, perhaps, the greatest ever workplace experiment: businesses of all types and sizes quickly learned to work remotely to deliver a diverse array of services and keep the economy turning.

The successful transition, in the vast majority of cases, towards this decentralised way of doing business has prompted a lot of questions. Among them, some have queried whether it could spell the end for the office as we know it, certainly in the conventional sense.

I, however, have my doubts to say the least. For many people I have spoken to, working from home for months on end is the last thing they want to contend with. I also suspect that those touting the ‘death of the office’ will be on the same page soon enough.

Of course, it has to be acknowledged that for many sectors there are positive aspects to working from home, or locations other than the office.

It has been proven to inspire creativity, while also giving people who need it the space and time to work on larger projects. There is no doubt working from home has a lot to offer for infrequent or short-term use and greater workplace flexibility has been a growing trend for years.

Yet, on a long-term basis, it is simply not as productive in the vast majority of cases – and for good reason.

At a basic level, we all need social and professional interaction. By comparison, working from home can be an isolating experience, particularly for young workers. A study from one of the world’s largest staffing companies, Randstad, found that 43% of Generation Z workers – roughly speaking those born between 1995 and 2005 – felt lonely working from home, compared to 26% of all respondents.

Indeed, unfortunately we are probably yet to see the brunt of continued enforced home working and the mental health effects isolation can have – particularly for those who live alone. As well as a sense of isolation, mixing home and work life in this way can have other consequences, with 44% of people telling the same Randstad survey that working in the office made it easier to disconnect from their jobs when it came time to switch off.

Furthermore, working in an office with colleagues and friends satisfies most people’s innate need to feel part of something bigger – a team, a cause, or even an organisation’s purpose. Modern offices are designed to maximise collaboration and social interaction among people to foster togetherness and help individuals feel part of something larger than themselves.

In fact, there is more to be said for the positive role of good office design and location – factors that have influenced our current development at 177 Bothwell Street.

Modern offices seek to maximise natural light, ensure high air quality, access to health and fitness activities, and provide a good range of amenities nearby. Bespoke fit-outs offer a wide range of work spaces and cater for different work styles, fostering collaboration through different meeting spaces and areas.

The positive role that technology can have has undoubtedly come to the fore in all of this too, making it possible for the world to continue, in some form, despite limitations. Indeed, the growing use of online collaboration tools, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, will continue well beyond 2020. However, they cannot indefinitely replace real face-to-face interaction and come with their own problems as the growing use of the term ‘Zoom fatigue’ demonstrates. This is even more important when you consider meeting people for the first time.

The truth of the matter is, however good a home office’s arrangements might be and the usefulness of technologies currently available, employees will struggle to replicate the offering of a well-thought-out conventional office.

Though some may talk of the end of the office, soon enough I am sure we will all be happy to see our colleagues in the flesh when the right time comes and, dare I even suggest it, shake their hands.

Stephen Lewis is the managing director pf HFD Property Group