Let's take a moment to say farewell to the open-office plan, and remember who brought them to us in the first place.
If there is one possible silver lining to the tragic fallout of the global Covid-19 pandemic, it's the that the open office -- what my Inc.com colleague Geoffrey James has memorably dubbed "the dumbest management fad of all time"--might be nearing its final days.
Overall, this is good news for you as a business leader. Because while there's a cost savings to open offices that has been hard to ignore, almost nobody likes this structure.
The best employees want more remote flexibility for health and cultural reasons.
Now, when they return to work, they'll have empirical evidence (based on our massive, global, unplanned experiment) that much of the work people did in offices can be done just as well remotely.
So as we say goodbye (probably), first here's a quick chance to remember.
'Before long, many people will telecommute.'
The credit or blame, depending on your point of view, goes to Italian architect Gaetano Pesce and his client, Jay Chiat, the late head of ad agency Chiat/Day.
Here's how the New York Times described their creation, still new at the time, back in 1994:
People are calling it the virtual office -- a workplace designed for the age of the cellular phone, the computer modem and the mobility that such devices have made possible. Lodged high up in a glass tower in lower Manhattan, Chiat/Day has opened its wacky new doors at a time when there is talk that technology is making the urban workplace obsolete.
Before long, many people will telecommute from home along the information highway. Will it even make sense to keep an office?
Will it make sense indeed? It's fun to consider that a quarter of a century ago, people were predicting the change we're only seeing now.
'Like a huge living room.'
As for Pesce, NPR's Planet Money tracked him down a few years ago. He'd been known for "really bright colors and playful designs" when Chiat asked him to develop this new kind of office.
There were a few differences between this early version and the more modern open office.
Almost nobody had home internet access then, and cell phones weren't quite as ubiquitous as they'd be a few years later. So, employees would come in each morning and check out a laptop and a phone.
But other than that, Pesce described something pretty similar to what the open office became -- or at least what it aspired to.
"It was like a huge living room," he said. "It was an open space with sofa, comfortable chair, a coffee shop."
No, like 'a migraine headache.'
Even then, however, some complaints were already apparent.
It was hard to get work done for one thing, with so many people walking around, and the distraction of the hard, bright, colorful floor.
"Like, if you could climb inside a migraine headache, that's what that felt like," said Shalom Auslander, a creative director who worked there.
Over the years, science backed up its critics. And while tastes and fashion are cyclical, it's hard to imagine when the open office might come crashing back into vogue.
Now, thanks to the fallout from a global tragedy, its time may have finally run out.