There’s something missing in our home offices – and it’s more than just the stapler. We’ve lost our ‘emotional intelligence’. The technology was supposed to get us connected – but somehow we’ve never felt more disconnected. This pandemic is crippling our emotional competence.

We’ve all become too aware that digital communication is left wanting when it comes to handling our own emotions and those of others. This four-part series of articles explains how even the emotionally compromised home environment does not have to set us completely adrift. And it’s not technology that can fill the void.

Face-to-face interaction

It was supposed to be a special day – back in late February 2020. It was the day of our book launch advocating more ‘face-to-face’ interaction in the workplace. I was amongst like thinkers. Other speakers predicting the future of the office 2020 – also spoke of how office space would increasingly provide a melting pot for creativity and team working. Homeworking was just an optional footnote – for those that couldn’t experience the real thing. We were the chosen augurs who were to foretell how the office of the future would play-out in 2020. It didn’t seem much of a challenge – after all – 2020 was already upon us. Yet there was already a feeling of unease amongst the cognoscenti in the audience.

Headlines that day

The headline news for the day – that fateful day – included ‘House prices rise in every region of UK for first time in two years’; ‘Amsterdam considering moving red light district indoors’ and ‘UK university staff to strike for two weeks’. Wuhan was still unworthy of comment.

Looking at the February headlines today seems almost nostalgic. The university staff that were threatening a two-week strike are now home for good – just like many of us. As for the predictions, they look incomplete at best: at worst you could describe them as naïve. The world has indeed changed and it happened on our shift.

Of course, the whitewashing has already begun. The normalcy bias has kicked in. Forecasters of property markets are busy predicting future trends based on historic data. They refer to a downside blip with a similar upsurge next year – livestreamed through a comfortably remote virtual conference. Is this a forecast or just wishful thinking?  History struggles to make sense of this pandemic. It’s time to abandon the comfort zone and look at the structural changes that the pandemic has brought about. Now we are asking ‘existential’ questions about the future of the office.

Forthcoming Articles

In the forthcoming series examining the ‘emotionally intelligent home workspace’ we point out how the recent Covid 19 pandemic defies traditional forecasting. The audience has changed. No longer is the message being conveyed to professionals such as facilities managers or interior designers. Instead, the message is for all of us that have become domestic workplace designers.

The message from our book is as relevant today as ever. In the face of automation and artificial intelligence, the human skill of managing emotions is more important than ever. Emotional intelligence remains the key skill that companies demand. It is the skill that is most likely to get you your job and the one skill that is mostly likely to cause you to lose your job. The pandemic has made it clear just how important human qualities are in modern-day organisations. Whilst mobile technologies have got us up and running from home, we know all too well that there’s something missing. As the days turn to weeks and months, a feeling of ‘emotional drift’ sets in – and with it a loss of motivation.

In the remaining three parts in this series of articles appearing on buildingei.com we try to make amends for some of the things that I should have said back in February. Home working is a boon for those of us trying to avoid the noise and disruption of the office. We are more than happy to embrace flexible working and avoiding the daily commute. But there’s something missing – something that organisations have lost in this virtual ether. In the following series, we look at the home workspace and how it enables and debilitates us. The articles comprise:

Part Two: The unsustainable home worker. The home office is much more than just a tool. How a focus on output and task creates an unsustainable working model. Only by addressing ‘emotional intelligence’ can an endurable home working environment be realised.

(Publication date: May 1, 2020.  Authors: Edward Finch and Guillermo Aranda-Mena)

Part Three: Being in the present. How the home workspace can enhance our capacity to be aware of, control, and express our own emotions. Examining our sensory and aesthetic surroundings is not just about decoration. The aesthetics of our physical surroundings puts us in touch with ourselves.

(Publication date: May 11, 2020.  Authors: Edward Finch and Guillermo Aranda-Mena)

Part Four: Connecting with the past. How the home workspace can enhance our capacity to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Organisational belonging, relationships and meaning can be expressed as symbols. When our only contact with our organisation is in our domestic ‘goldfish bowl’ – the use of symbols to create a coherent narrative is invaluable.

(Publication date: May 15, 2020.  Authors: Edward Finch and Guillermo Aranda-Mena)

Authors of the book ‘Creating Emotionally Intelligent Workspaces: A design guide to office chemistry’. Routledge.
By Edward Finch & Guillermo Aranda-Mena, G. (2019).
https://doi.org/10.1201/9780429469558