Forecasts suggesting the end of the office as we know it have been a feature of lockdown but Evoke Transport Planning has just renewed its lease at Work Life in The White Building in Reading. And managing director Richard Stacey can’t wait to get back.

The are many who now predict the death of the office.

For this to be the case, isn’t there a presumption that offices fulfil the function of just being buildings where we sit at laptops composing and responding to emails?

This is not the case. We are involved in what we always describe as being a ‘people business’, one that thrives on people and teams coming together.

I am sure there will be a paradigm shift in the way we work. Yes there will be more who can work from home. Yes, we have proved that technology works. And yes, we can work remotely. But I, for one, cannot wait to return with the team to our office space.

An office environment allows for team work, the exchanging of ideas, thoughts and knowledge, it allows for shared experiences and of course it is not all about work.

The chance to just chat, to talk about events, work, sport, music etc cannot happen when we all work from home and experience  our only spontaneity during prearranged Zoom calls.

We do not work in a process-driven environment, we learn from each other.

Without an office where can we, as a company, develop an identity and impart our shared values on team members? How can new recruits come on board and get a feeling of belonging and get a sense of the company values and identity? We come together to work together and to have fun together. An office is not just a building, it is a whole ecosystem.

We love our own office space in Work Life’s co-working office. It brings us together as a team but, just as importantly, being located in central Reading gives opportunities to socialise with each other and also to meet our many friends, professional partners and clients in the industry.

Whereas, such meetings may take on a different form in the future, surely they are still better than staring into a laptop, trying to get a sneak preview of people’s home life behind them in a video call. How can we work in a people business when we take the personal touch out of the equation?

We’re lucky that we can work from home but the lines between work and home life can become blurred.

The kids take more interest in your video call meeting than their home schooling. We tie ourselves to our laptops, thinking of the world outside. We’ve lost some of that spontaneity. We still have fun, we ‘meet’ others, we deliver projects and the day in a life of a transport planner remains an interesting one, just not as interesting as before.

There are challenges ahead. The office may continue to exist but it will be a different kind of environment – for a while at least.

Can we all return together or will we have to return in bubbles? How can we share beer and pizza on a Thursday when we’re all two metres apart.

Some big questions remain to be answered. Not least, as someone who commuted by train from a distance that is beyond my cycling capabilities, how do I get to the office?

Image shows the Evoke team. Left to right is Meg Hopkins (new recruit, starting today), David Fletcher, Richard Stacey, Beth Wilson and Jonathan Williams.

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