What is it? Hi mate just sending you a quick Slackerino do you think you’d be able to meet me and Christian in Meeting Room #4?
Where is it? Yeah the one by the kitchen yeah
No it’s not technically a meeting room
The sofa and the table by the kitchen
The one where we put out those pizzas on the Friday we made half the video team redundant
That’s the one that’s the one
See you there in cinco!
What is there to do locally? What it is mate is— well, tell the truth, the company’s had a bloody hard year
Yah, yah, yah
Christian will take over from here:
Dynamism and drive is at the heart of our company ethos
Video is at the centre of everything we do
Content is our north star
Alright, how much are they asking? So here’s the deal
What you do for the company, isn’t really doing it for the company
Yeah, and with the takeover—
Exactly, exactly – so we’ve got to make cuts
I’ll let Chris take over from here:
This company is like a killer shark
No fat, always moving
Content is our north star
So what we’re saying is if we don’t lose 24k from the budge by end of play then a lot of the Malaysian investors are going to shit out
Mmm, I can talk to IT, but I don’t think they let you keep the laptop
No, I don’t think we can let you keep the laptop
The thing with the laptop is it is an asset
If the Thrasher sticker meant that much to you then you should have put it on something you own
You can have one Diet Coke from the fridge on the way out, but if you don’t leave by five I’ll have security take you out by the fucking pubes
Love the office, don’t we? We love the office, we miss the office, we yearn for the thrill of the vibe. The heady hot smell of a printer whirring out a 300-page document. Someone across the room making an incredibly loud phone call about their childcare. The handle of the fridge is sticky for some reason.
If there is one thing we miss, it’s the office. The floor is always grey. The toilet has a smell. One day you come in and someone has swapped your chair for their one with the wobbly arm-rest, even though your one had that back support cushion you had to send all those emails to get. Love the office, love the office.
We invented society: we invented these great gears of economy, and industry, and technology. We can travel from one end of the country to another in a single day. We have access to riches our ancestors could only dream of. We have rockets to the moon and special robots to vacuum our floors. And still, office life is this: you have to go to the special room to read and delete your emails, you cannot do that from home. You have to come in to the office to do that. There is no way of knowing whether you are doing it unless you are in the office.
Obviously, we have a blurry and indistinct relationship with the office now: the office – a haunting grey space where seven hours of nothing happens across an eight-hour day – has blurred into our real lives, taken over dinner tables and sofa stools and that shady bit of the garden you can just about see your laptop on if you hide it in a big enough cardboard box first. Office life and real life clasped hands over the pandemic and they have not yet let go of each other, and though you might have already had the dreadful clunk of an all-staff email – Pathway To An Office Return (Sep ‘21) – you might not have ventured back there yet.
‘No,’ you think, ‘No, I don’t want to go back there. I’m not ready. I don’t want to get the train and then the bus and then the bus and then the train to go there and come back again. I don’t want to have to wear trousers and a tucked-in shirt according to an arcane dress code that someone invented for no reason years ago. Can we not just meet in the middle? Can some of the office come to me? Can some of me come to the office? Can we not remodel the world in a way where the only highlights of the last year – semi-flexible working towards a more measured work–life response – can be retained? Hold on I’m just getting a Slack notif—’
Huh, OK. Well then, here’s another possible solution: why don’t you just fucking live in an office, then? You may as well, at this point. Your work is your life and the space you have to live in has slowly been ameliorated by work. You can’t really sit on the sofa and watch a film anymore because that’s the same place you sit every day and do emails. You can’t really rack up and do lines on the same glass coffee table you balance your computer on to do Zoom calls. So, frankly, why don’t you abandon the idea of living a leisurely life in the scant few hours you have to yourself every day, and just fucking move in to this fucking office in Camberwell, which is being rented for the low low price of— I can’t be reading this correctly, can I? £1,400? For a grey dreary little office space? Hold on, I’m getting another—
Hmm. OK well then, here you are:
The main thing to notice about the space of course is, with its functional black furniture and sturdily inelegant glass-top furniture and the off-the-peg laminate kitchen over a grey resin floor, it has more of a touch of “abandoned casting couch porn set” to it. But then you look closer and see there is something bleakly, uninspiringly functional about the whole place: white walls with a single piece of canvas art stretched across one wall; a single plant and a bunch of fire blankets; one of those strange low tables that are embarrassing to sit at because squatting that low on a chair makes everyone’s knees just too high up against them, just stupidly high, you feel somehow like children.
What’s so psycho about this place, though, is that it is so obviously an office – it is steeped in officeness! I can already see the Bags For Life with tupperwares full of pasta salad in them in the fridge! It may as well have a receptionist! – that it makes it so much weirder that it has a totally separate room with a bed in it. This is not a small one-bed flat that has the aesthetic of an office (which would be entirely mad anyway): this is an office that someone has simply put a bed in, and that is so, so much weirder.
As ever, I think the best way to envision living in one of the stupid flats featured on this moron column is to imagine trying to take a Tinder date back there after some successful flirting in a bar. This is the only time you ever really think about what message the flat you exist in is projecting; when your key is in the door, after you’ve done some pretty heavy finger stuff in the Uber over, when you’re wondering distantly whether you put that pile of clothes that was on your bed away or not. Every other time you look at the place you live in, you just see it as a functional rectangular space that has all your shoes in it. But now, suddenly, you’re projecting this facade of funny, anecdote-heavy, zero mental problems cool, and the flat is possibly about to fuck that for you. Open the door. You live in an office. Open the door. Imagine the scenario:
“Oh, this is— is this like a temporary place, then?”
“No, I live here. In an office. I have a 12-month lease on this flat. To live here.”
“As a job?”
“So you leave the office you live in every day… and go to another office?”
“Yeah. I think I’ve got some wine here or—”
“So this doesn’t just look like an office: it is an office?”
“Oh, I get it. It’s like a squatter thing, right?”
“I had a friend who did it for a bit. ‘Property tenancy’, or whatever. Him and about 15 other people lived in an old school up in Finsbury Park.”
“So squatters couldn’t live there, or something.”
“Right, and they would get paid to—?”
“No, you’re not— they paid to live there—”
“They paid to live in an abandoned school?”
“Yeah, but the rent was less.”
“You get it.”
“I get it now, yeah.”
“So this is like that?”
“I just live in an office.”
“I pay one thousand four-hundred pounds a month to live in an office. Wine?”
“Yeah, thanks. So is every room like this?”
“Like an office?”
“And the bedroom is—”
“The bedroom is an office just with a bed in it. It would be like having sex in an office. Like with the blinds you get in offices, and everything.”
“Right. I’ve just remembered actually, I’ve got a thing—”
“A thing, tomorrow. With work. So I should go, really—”
“Ah. Like an early morning thing?”
“Yeah, early morning thing, yeah. First thing. So I’ll— is this near a train station?”
“Not particularly close to a train station. It would make more sense to live in an office if it was really, really easy to get to a train station from, wouldn’t it? Haha, yeah. Because then at least living in an office would have a single viable plus to it. But no. It’s like a 12-minute walk up a hill.”
“I’ll get an Uber”
“I’ll see you out!”
I guess what I am saying is: do not live in an office. But it’s easy to say that, now, isn’t it. Just about. Two years ago, the idea of living in an office would be absurd – absurd! – but now your house is basically just your office anyway. How much do you really like “having a rug”? How much do you really like “actual soft comfortable furnishings”? How much do you really want to work at a table that is made of wood, and has wine glass ring marks all over it? Wouldn’t you rather just work at a glass table in a soulless office and then just sleep there as well? It saves the commute. The Victorians had the workhouse model for this very reason, and at this point (with this government), we can’t be more than about four years out. If anything, moving to an office in Camberwell in 2021 would simply put you ahead of the inevitable curve when it happens.
Something to think about, maybe. Something to ponder.