VISITING SYDNEY FROM New York before Christmas, I dropped by the office of a client and former colleague. Her employer, a large law firm, recently moved to swanky new premises and she was keen to take me on a tour. As we strolled the eerily quiet corridors, the towering windows, antiseptic surfaces and noiseless elevator doors put me in mind of the inside of a spaceship. At any moment I half-expected the two of us to defy gravity and lift off from the gleaming polished floor.
The cost of maintaining the illusion of worker freedom through extravagant fit-outs seems to grow with every decade. The office’s split-level mezzanine and cafeteria exaggerated the sense of a space–time continuum. Designed as a hub for meetings of all kinds, the mezzanine encourages flexibility of human movement within the larger workplace, which remains tethered to that relic of twentieth century work practices, the billable hour. Looking around, I felt a retrospective pang for the lifestyle extras a corporate job used to afford me. But having ‘consciously uncoupled’ myself as a full-time employee from the corporate workplace eight years earlier, it felt like viewing Earth from deep space.
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