Two major themes emerge in this issue. First, it is undeniable that our future is traffic and more of it. The second is that flexible or hybrid living, while full of many virtues, will blow the idea of “routine” out of the water.
Before the pandemic, most of us spent a decent chunk of our lives, as The Police sang, facing the hell of rush hour “packed like lemmings into the shiny metal boxes” of subways, buses and, for most, cars.
Commuting sucked, but it was at least mostly predictable. It had a bass-heavy rhythm that leaned hard on the downbeat. Hybrid is Brubeck-style jazz. Each day is a new time signature. As urbanist Ellen Dunham-Jones will point out, commutes will likely be maddeningly unpredictable.
You already had different routines for morning and evening, of course. But now you will also have vastly different routines for in-office days and work-from-home days. It will impact when you sleep, what you wear, your grooming routine, what you eat for meals and for snacks and where you get and prepare that food.
As employers roll out “back to the office” plans for fall, it’s clear that hybrid and flexibility are not necessarily the same thing. Being told when to be in the office, even if it’s three days and not five, can be more disruptive than being in the office daily. Of course for many, many, many people, economic realities and the nature of many jobs mean that we’ll have no choice in when we work and how we get there.
There are multiple futures. Change means not just being in the office less often, but also being there when—and only when—we want to be or need to be. That will be different for everyone and for every sector. That kind of change will have profound impacts on where and how people live. Our panel in this issue will show many positive and hopeful ways that can spin out.
But due to this unpredictability and our human desire and need for routine, there’s also a future where things go back to the way they were. That has consequences too, especially for our environment.
Read on and see which future makes most sense for you. Will your future office be in your home, or many miles away—or both?