• Transform magazine
  • August 18, 2022

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Unreliable hedonistic forecasters — get to the office

Simon Manchipp

Simon Manchipp, founder of London-based design agency SomeOne, explains how the benefits of returning to the office and getting back out in the world outweigh working from home.

Man alive it’s good to be back! Face to face meetings. The reassuring squish of the office Eames chair. The warm dual monitor glow reflected from a good solid desk permanently set at the correct height. Not forgetting the wows of other people. People you didn’t marry or conceive — but just like to work with. A pitch that involves turning up somewhere, in clothes without stains, in rooms almost guaranteed not to be interrupted by dogs, cats or children. Oh yes, even the Rosé-riddled summer lockdown wasn’t this good.

Why not continue to embrace the joys of underpant-clad business? How do we make it appealing to return? At SomeOne we're already 99% back all week. One reason it seems to have not been a barrier is that our London HQ has always been a mix of what Rory Sutherland called in a recent lecture about return to work, ‘The Library and Bar’.

STUDIOUS vs RAUCOUS

Downstairs in Shoreditch are secluded pods, dark corners and a bookcase enclosed space designed to bed-down with a design tome, laptop or hangover — ready to dive deep into strategic mindwrongings and devious design systems. Contrarily upstairs is loud music, bright lighting, banter, arguments, the occasional fight, drinks and hugs at the end of the day.

EXTREMES

Curiously the blend of studious and the raucous combine to make for an appealing change from domestic bliss. The desire for extremes is seen all over the human experience — from drugs to shopping preferences… on one hand, a rise in anonymous online shopping — on the other hand: meet-the-maker farmers markets… people like the edges not the middle.

BUSY

There comes a time you just can’t add the endless scheduling of calls to an already fast approaching deadline. I doubt they could have ever put a man on the moon if all involved dialled in via Zoom. You need the engineers in the garage to make the F1 car win. When you are that busy — and a lot of design companies I know are — you need to be in the room.

THREE HOURS BEFORE THE PARTY

Almost everyone over 30 (and many below) feels rising doubts about the merits of attending ‘that’ party arranged weeks prior. The ‘3hr prior’ sensations mix around in your mind. ‘I can’t be bothered.’ ‘What’s the point.’ ‘It’s going to be awful.’ ‘I’ve never really liked David anyway’ etc. Yet 99% of the time, you go because of peer-pressure or marital obligation and end up having a far better time than you predicted three hours before.

Based on this human trait, Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science at London School of Economics recommends going back to the office “One more day than you are comfortable with” — because humans are unreliable hedonistic forecasters — you’ll actually have a far more rewarding time than the last two years in lockdown might have led you to believe.

Generally, ‘office’ behaviour is better. The tech is easier to get right. It’s illegal to email someone out of work hours and expect a reply (in Belgium). Everyone’s met your cat online now, so it’s more relaxed. Some firms are playing around with working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — fondly called becoming a T.W.A.T. (as coined not by me but The Spectator in January 2019 in case you were wondering). Most of all, everyone has recognised that an after-work drink or a spot of lunch with colleagues radically overpays in terms of happiness. To prove the point further, there is overcompensation on show in grateful bars and restaurants every day of the week.

SWEET TALK

Then there is the importance of a return to charm. Many in business look down their expensively moisturised noses at any kind of charm, seeing it as the undesirable obsequious oiling of wheels. You can all but forget about charm when the lighting in the TeamsCall makes you look like you are inside a fridge or silhouetted against a window in need of a squeegee.

Yet the very brilliant and ‘Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, & Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago’, Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, points out that much economic activity would not even exist without what she calls ‘sweet talk’ — she even puts a number to it. 25%. Yep, a quarter of work would not exist, get done, or get paid for if it wasn’t for that little motivating corridor meeting, quick catch-up or massive Friday lunch.

Surely that alone is reason enough to get your trackie bottoms off and get back to the office.