The office was essentially an answer to the need for centralized communication before modern communications technologies existed. Prior to the Internet, if you wanted to get six people to meet together you had to put them physically into the same room. If you wanted a team of 25 to work together, you had to put them physically into the same room.
From this apparently simple solution we get the enormous waste of time called “commuting” in which everyone crowds onto inadequate infrastructure in order to move from home to office — all at precisely the same time, because that’s what organizations need. The cost in physical exhaustion, wasted life, and pollution, is immense.
Today we have the Internet. For 85% of white collar jobs there is zero need to go to the office. Study after study shows working from home is not only far more productive but also dramatically cuts pollution as well as leaving people with many more hours of their lives to use as they see fit.
So why do we still have people talking about the office? Simply because as a species we prefer to be in groups, even when that makes no sense. Simply because very few managers know how to assess output but even the dullest manager can see if you’re in your cube. As for those who claim that serendipitous meetings over the water cooler “make all the difference,” we can only note that any organization so badly run that it needs magical luck to survive is one that will go out of business regardless of how many water coolers it installs.
In other words, the office is today utterly redundant and only remains a place of toil because as a species we’re very poor at taking advantage of more adequate solutions even when they are staring us in the face.