I find it fascinating that here we are coming out of the pandemic and one of the big concerns is about whether or not people will return to the office. This is seen as crucial to a return to normality. I can understand that there are economic and social implications of people continuing to work from home. Many shops and cafes in London for example are dependent on commuters for business. Additionally whilst for some it has been more straight forward to work from home because it has been easier to set up a home office in the spare room rather than crowding onto trains and facing a 1 hour or more commute, for others the drive or bus ride to the office was short and to be preferred to fighting for space at the kitchen table and bandwidth with other family members.
But the assumption that office and factory life is the norm is fascinating because that hasn’t always been the historical case. This struck home to me when researching “marriage at work”. We habituality create idealised and romanticised ages and then assume that what was the norm in one place at one time because of specific circumstances has been the ideal throughout history.
Historically the household would work together and the home and surrounding land would be at the heart of industry. It was the industrial revolution that shifted the balance as people moved into cities and worked long hours at the factory. Yet in terms of time and geography the norm is not to be herded like cattle into containers every morning, transported a distance from home and set to work with strangers from other communities.
If we do not see a return to the office then history will not conclude that we failed to return to normal. Rather, it will conclude that after a 200 year aberration life in the west is finally returning to the global and historical norm.
I’m hoping to serialise “Marriage at work” in the near future.