In my experience people have short memories and “business as usual” may well yet resume. I recall working in Hong Kong just after SARS hit. Students were held in lockdown in their university halls, everyone wearing masks (although they are more commonly warn over there anyway given pollution levels). It didn’t change behaviours then, nor did Bird Flu which was perhaps more of a global concern.
What makes this time different is that technology has progressed and remote and decentralised working is more viable now. However, what hasn’t changed is the need for human interaction. We are social beings. I find myself approaching my late 30’s and single. I would love nothing more than to move out in to the countryside and work remotely. But realistically, what are the chances of me meeting somebody? Even with new dating technologies it would be difficult to persuade me that the chances are better or even equal.
I dont have the stats but i dare say “the office” plays an important role in the development of our social and romantic circles.
City living and affords us the opportunity to meet many people (for whatever reason) and makes it convenient to do so. Catching up for a coffee or going for a bite to eat - much more difficult/arduous if you live in middle of nowhere and potentially miles apart. And i appreciate that the article is not suggesting “decentralised” means living in the sticks, but then if you have a lot of like minded individuals working on a common goal, and living in relative close proximity, dont be surprised that these people might want to work together. And before you know it, you have an office!
For these reasons i feel once the fear around the pandemic has died down (and it will), cities will thrive again as will office life. Many people take comfort from order and hierarchy and actively seek to be a part of it.