It seems to me that what was a “normal” way of living before the COVID pandemic won’t be returning any time soon. What is possibly our future?
As employers discover that their employees can work from home, will huge offices filled with cubicles become a thing of the past? What will happen to the businesses which fed off all these workers? Sandwich shops, restaurants, bars, mini-supermarkets and more…
Then there are the office buildings themselves. A smaller office for when employees want to meet up in person to brainstorm? So what to do with swathes of empty concrete? And I’m sure pension funds and landlords are putting pressure onto the government to get offices filled again.
However, is there a way to use the pandemic as a way to bring life back into our cities? E.g. fewer offices and more housing? Not everyone aspires to the 3-bedroom, garden and garage suburban lifestyle. Would it take much work to convert offices to housing? We’ve been to hotels that were former offices and I don’t think it would take much to convert. There are fire escapes and lifts for a start. Encouraging more city-centre living could not only assist the businesses already there but maybe encourage a more diverse mix.
Curfews and lockdowns aside, things will change as businesses run out of public money to pay for furloughed staff. Redundancies and company bankruptcies will change how we work as well as play. In our own neighbourhood of Shawlands in Glasgow smaller businesses seem to be thriving. Gaining from the ability to walk out at lunchtime for a coffee locally, grab a freshly-made loaf or bun from the bakers rather than going to the larger supermarket with its one way systems, panic buying and all-round controlling experience. Will inhabitants return to a more village type of living with city districts becoming hubs of living again as opposed to just somewhere to live and travel to work?
Whatever the future holds, one thing that came out of the lockdown period was that appreciation of being able to be with family. Do we really need to work away from home? Would more flexible working lead to happier employees? Is this an adequate pause to reassess what we all want from life? Just like you, I have many questions and ideas flying around my head.
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