T.his office A place for colleagues to meet, work and bond. But it’s also a time capsule, and a place where traces of historical labor patterns can be seen everywhere. From hand sanitizer to social distancing stickers, not only has covid-19 left its own imprint on the fossil record. is. And what was already looking quaint now looks decidedly outdated.
The most obvious artifact is the landline phone, a reminder of a time when mobility meant being able to get up and keep talking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the second half of 2021, less than 15% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 had a cell phone at home.
There may be theoretical reasons for this persistence. They offer a more secure and stable connection than mobile phones and no one has to worry about their battery running out. Now they’re sitting one after the other on their desks, rows of buttons unpressed, ringtones unheard, cords apparently untied.
Landlines were already obsolete before covid-19 hit. The Flipboard chart suffered a quicker reversal. These objects demonstrate a specific type of torture. People physically crowd the room while the idiot sketches a quadrant with his marker pen, pointing to the meaningful upper right corner. The idiots are still making quadrants, but they’re far more likely to use the slide deck. I still have the flipboard in my office, but it’s stowed away in a corner and the top page is slowly yellowing.
If your office still uses internal mail and special envelopes with crossed out names for people moving within the organization, you’re in the drama of the corporate age But most offices still have clues to the historical importance of paper. Copiers, scanners, shredders, guillotines, and impractically large staplers, physical documents were the currency of choice, people gathered in one room of his to share ideas on scraps of paper, not far away It’s the echo of an era that doesn’t exist.
The intray and outtray are visual reminders of how information flowed within the organization. Bulletin boards and business cards were once the best way to convey news and contact details. The prediction of a paperless office has been around for decades. They are not about to materialize now. But the stationery cupboard will run out of stock in the future.
Today, meetings with people in the office and those working remotely rely on platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. But if you dig around, you might find an object you thought was useful in the dim, distant times of 2019: a conference call speakerphone. This phone, which looks like a tiny spaceship, had to be plugged into a socket. The lights suddenly flashed and people muttered in awe. Someone dials in and every time you press a button you get a loud beep. They inevitably hit the wrong one at some point and have to start over. The phones themselves are gathering dust on the shelves, left behind by better technology and the exponential rise of remote work.
The very layout of many offices is a throwback to pre-pandemic times. If you work in a place full of identity kit cubicles and still have your nameplate or sit at a desk tethered to the floor with a cable equivalent to your digestive system, all of your employees come to your office every day Sometimes you’re in an environment where it makes sense. Even if they were doing their job in silence. Socializing, sofas and hot desks are seen as the future as the office’s comparative advantage has become a place to collaborate with other people.
A real archaeologist needs tools and time to do the arduous work: paintbrush, trowel, sieve, pickaxe. Corporate archeology is easier. All you need is your eyes and a memory of how things used to be. But you also have to be quick. Now is the time to take a deep look at the office, as workplaces are being revamped for the hybrid era. You may soon come across something that looks as antiquated as pneumatic tubes, typewriters and fax machines.
Read more from management and work columnist Bartleby:
When a Boss Stands for an Employee (October 20)
It’s getting harder to take time off due to illness (October 13th)
The magic formula of management (October 6)
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https://www.economist.com/business/2022/10/27/the-archaeology-of-the-office office archeology