Ending office life altogether will be a big mistake

Very few companies could afford to replicate this of course – but Bezos has got the right idea. If he succeeds in vaccinating Amazon and its supply chain from the virus, he will take a big leap towards his dual goal: creating a better environment where people want to work – while at the same time smashing the competition.

Other companies are taking similar, albeit more modest steps – including PWC, the audit firm, which is building its own employee contact tracing app. Others are pursuing the same strategy.

Communal workplaces are likely to change in other ways too.

In a post-covid world, the staff canteen and other shared spaces may take on a valuable new role – as a rare place for people to spend time together in a safe and virus-free environment.

Silicon Valley companies like Google have already pioneered campus working where staff can enjoy free food as well as spaces to meet and socialise.

It’s a model that is likely to take on a new urgency in an economy shorn of many of the opportunities to do so outside – bars, restaurants, pubs, gyms and yoga studios. People once took these for granted but not any longer.

Smaller companies and those struggling to simply survive a brutal economic shake-out won’t be able to follow these examples – but those that can may find themselves at an advantage.

The office isn’t likely to vanish any time soon – but it is likely to change. 

Companies which recognise that and embrace it may find their workforce more willing to return. Those that don’t may discover staff prefer to vote with their feet – either by staying at home or moving to an employer which offers a safer and more welcoming workplace.

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