Shared working spaces were losing popularity even before the pandemic forced us into working from home. Will we miss them more than we think?by Hephzibah Anderson / November 10, 2020 / Leave a comment
As a new graduate in the halcyon final years of the last century, nothing did more to confirm that I’d joined the adult world than my first office job. The building itself played a greater role than the work—fuzzily-defined editorial duties for a publishing firm I’d previously interned with one student summer. Back then the office had consisted of cramped rooms above a boutique off Oxford Street. While I was finishing my degree, however, the company had moved into a shiny glass tower that sprang up on what remains one of the capital’s least lovely thoroughfares.
Each morning I’d stroll from the tube, barely noticing the multi-lane roar of traffic as a montage of clips from films like Working Girl, Broadcast News and His Girl Friday spooled through my mind. The frustration—at once gender-specific and more generalised—that characterises each of those very different portraits of the workplace registered only dimly. Instead, spinning into a gleaming lobby, I felt as though I’d arrived in that larger world, and my reflection seemed to confirm it: edges sharpened by business attire, I was going places. Up to the fourth floor, at any rate, where I’d won my own section of a series of communal desks, small islands overlapped by gym kits, umbrellas, heels—flotsam and jetsam that seemed incongruously personal amid the corporate carpet tiles and panel lighting.
Growing up I had no experience of parents leaving the house to work. Mine are artists, and work was something that took place in the home; there was no work-life balance simply because there was no divide to start with. It was a privileged, precarious way to live, and as much as it made office life thrillingly exotic for me, it also made it hard to settle into, despite my yearning for structure and financial stability. It didn’t help that my duties were so vague. Boredom and anxiety vied with one another, and a lot of time was spent trying to appear busy, clicking between windows on the screen of my hulking computer while blinds blocked the glare from real windows—and a view of construction workers whose labours yielded enviably tangible results, as more office blocks rose up around us.
Meanwhile, endless conversations about holidays booked months in advance stoked a sense of panic; I’d inherited…