Fat Supplies in the Office image

Fat Supplies in the Office

James Forsyth, the political editor of the Spectator, made a fascinating comment on the Coffee House Shots podcast the other day. He was talking about the hidden costs that arise from people working from home instead of going into the office, and made a point that I hadn't heard expressed this clearly before:

One of the things that gets slightly ignored in the argument about productivity is this. During lockdown, we all lived of our fat supplies (if you see what I mean). We built up human relationships with our colleagues that enabled us to speak to each other, but obviously as time goes on, those atrophy. And if you think about what we know about creativity, and where good ideas come from, they come from spontaneity: people talking to each other, people having discussions, people making breakthroughs. That is why you have the cluster effect in economics. And I think there is a real danger to the UK economy, which is heavily dependent on London as a global hub in so many ways: if that London cluster loses its lustre, and its ability to generate ideas and innovation because you’ve not got people bumping into each other and spontaneity and all of those other things, that is going to be very bad for the UK economy in the long term.

My office is seventy miles from my home, so in some ways lockdown has been pretty convenient. But offices are places to build up relational and creative fat supplies (as well as being critical for new staff to integrate, make connections, learn the ropes, and get useful things done). Worth considering.

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