Q&A / THE POST-PANDEMIC OFFICE & SOCIETY

”The office of the future will have innovation everywhere — think air purifiers built in to pictures on the wall”

JAMES BIDWELL
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June 07, 2021

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James Bidwell is co-founder of Re_Set, a leading next-generation strategy consultancy for innovation and sustainability whose mission is to ensure its clients thrive in a disrupted world. Re_Set empowers and equips businesses and governments to make a positive global impact and create a new vision of success. He is also the owner and chair of Springwise, the world’s largest source of global innovations, which he describes as the place of record for innovations that matter — and as such has a very unique glimpse into the future.

— Every day we publish the top ideas discovered by our scouts from all across the world, he tells.

He was listed in the Financial Times Creative Business Top 50, and named as one of London’s 1000 most influential by the London Evening Standard. During his time as marketing director at Selfridges, he was described as the ”ring master extraordinaire” and ”a theatrical agitator”.

The other week, he participated in Aritco’s digital panel on ”The Future of the Office”.

— It centered on the future of work and covered a breadth of topics. If I were to summarize, we agreed that the world will take some time to settle ”post COVID” — if indeed there is such a thing as ”post COVID” and that wherever it lands the future will be different. People are changing their attitudes to the workplace and whilst home working has been enjoyed by some there is a real need for both place and experience for the organizations of the future. We talked a lot about the need for agility and flexibility, and for creating spaces which are experiential and accessible. Incorporating Aritco lifts to deliver that accessibility was of course on our Agenda, as were many of the innovations we see at Springwise. Overall we were positive — but understanding that the best leaders will need to stay ahead of the game.

If you were to summarize, based on the panel’s topic, what do you think the offices of the future will look like? And how will we use it?

— It will be flexible, experiential, and curated for its customers, Bidwell shares. More collaboration space, less factory-like banks of workstations. Accessibility and dynamics at the heart and innovation everywhere — think air purifiers built in to pictures on the wall, shelves which dispense handwash, and the next-gen of air conditioning which is less harmful to the planet. Wellbeing and mindfulness will be built in to every aspect of the space and we will see renewed focus on mother nature as part of the in and the out. This is an amazing time to be an office designer or architect. 

And how will society change?

— Society has already changed and will continue to do so. A generation has been rocked by the pandemic and attitudes will continue to change. Commuting every day on the same train or bus — or even plane — is a thing of the past. My hope is that we have a more equal and fairer society where those of us who are genuinely grateful to live in societies which have been able to cope with COVID relatively well will focus on helping those who haven’t. As a B Corp, my business believes in Business as a Force for Good and my intention is to have the most positive impact through our work that we can.

What would you say is the most crucial call for action by individuals and corporations to contribute to a better post-pandemic society?

— Become accredited B Corps and sign up to the movement. Think carefully about all your stakeholders and create a business which is positive for all. Reject the tyranny of shareholders who only think about profit — purpose is the new profit! And, of course, check out Springwise to stay ahead.

Everyone speak about sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. How do you, both on a personal and professional level, handle this major issue?

— Personally I drive electric, buy recycled clothes and products, am rewilding my garden and fly and use Amazon as little as possible!

— Re_Set, as a management consultancy for sustainability and innovation, work daily to help our clients solve sustainability issues. As a B Corp we walk the talk, unlike the more established consultancies. We’re set to really take off post-pandemic as the corporate world realizes that we hold the key to helping them create a sustainable and successful future. The best CEOs and leadership teams are on this agenda. With Springwise, we’re launching a series of partnerships and events with some of the global leaders in innovation for sustainability which is really exciting as we grow and engage our global community, Bidwell concludes.

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