The archaeology of the office

The office is where colleagues meet, work and bond. But it is also a time capsule, a place where the imprint of historic patterns of working are visible everywhere. The pandemic has heightened this sense of the office as a dig site for corporate archaeologists. It isn’t just that covid-19 has left its own trace in the fossil record, from hand sanitisers to social-distancing stickers. It is also that items which were useful in the pre-covid world make less sense now; and that things which were already looking quaint seem positively antiquated.

The most obvious artefact is the landline phone, a reminder of the days when mobility meant being able to stand up and keep talking. Long after people have junked them in their personal lives—less than 15% of Americans aged between 25 and 34 had one at home in the second half of 2021, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention—landline phones survive in offices.

There might be good theoretical reasons for this…

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