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Will the office still be there ?  Will you be in the office ?

June 1 2020


Will the office still be there ?  Will you be in the office ?


The corona paradigm shift is happening with immediacy in the office environment.   Working remote, zoom, and downsizing leased space are the new normal from all appearances so far.  There are clearly some immediate design considerations to make in this new culture to be most effective for individuals and for companies.

For the remote worker your zoom image is your new identity – everyone is now a media presence, at least in their field.  While this seems obvious, it doesn’t take long to realize not everyone gets the concept.  For example – you can see major network commenters with the stack washer and dryer in the background or the kitchen counters or the camera pointed at the ceiling.  Working remote will quickly become perceived as working from a remote office.  A visual screen layout needs to be more office than home and less office than office.  A considered approach to your online image will be a valuable career asset in the new normal.

While a canned background such as the static local cityscape or a photo is one solution, what not to do includes the ubiquitous bookshelf, the stark white wall hostage room look, or the photo from your last vacation.  As this is your portrait on view to everyone some considered staging is in order.

Artwork in particular, as a highly visual symbolic object, is a valuable icon for perceived identity.  Images with some content regardless of genre will be more recognizable and carry more substance.   The rectangular format in an appropriately large scale inherently frames the person and provides a backdrop with context.  The level of amenity seen is a strong clue to the job position whether a fine art poster, original print or work on canvas. The sophistication of the image is a clear reflection of you.

So with most of the collaborative and otherwise head down work being done remotely, what becomes of the corporate office?  The open office shared space that has evolved to be the standard over the past few years will be history as those activities are occurring elsewhere.

What’s old may be new again – think drive in theaters, think Mad Men.  The downsized corporate office will return to the function of the headquarters.  There will most likely be a return to some formality and seriousness of a flagship space in today’s materials and building technology.   The set and setting for hi level meetings and activities both substantive and symbolic will be at the corporate office.  Commensurate visual considerations for distinctive and specific corporate identity will be primary driver in the design of the procession through the space and in the fine detailing of the environment including art and furnishings.

An internationally known artist recently at Art Basel Miami said “It’s getting harder and harder to tell what art is.”  While the avant garde always provides the one next big thing, the rest of the edge fades to oblivion and before long the one thing becomes part of the mainstream and then the classic.  Culturally recognizable aesthetics provided by artists from classic modernism will perhaps best communicate the qualities of original endeavor, intellectual awareness, and lasting value  – all desirable business characteristics.  While these considerations already are in play at the headquarters of our largest corporations, companies of all sizes will find that with the work no longer actually occurring in their office,  the office will be the physical identity of the company.