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  • Writer's pictureDan Wakelin

Space or Place Blog

While spending some time studying recently, I ended up down a rabbit hole exploring the difference between space and place. It’s an argument that has been done to death, and yet, it seems there is little agreement about what term we should use. I am of the view that we should think about the workplace, rather than simply workspace. The last year or so has demonstrated that we are not bound to a single space. I’ve also heard plenty of people telling me that they can’t wait to get back to the office for a couple of days to see people, socialise, and collaborate in person. It’s clear that we’re not missing the stuffy meeting rooms, but we are missing the things that give those environments a sense of place. So what does that really mean? I came across this wonderful poem by Gershon Hepner, which I think articulates it better than I can.

Try to find the people whom you knew when you grew up and dared, before you lost the youthful bloom that you and all those people shared. You can not, for they like you have left the places that were so familiar, changing for the new the old lamps that no longer glow. Like our friends familiar places sadly can’t be recognized, for though we try to touch the bases they become as etherized as patients lying on a table in the wastelands we don’t know, and while we may think that we’re able to recreate the cameo that made the past as perfect as a picture hanging on a wall, we can’t bring back the world of was from where it lies, beyond recall.

Hepner’s poem suggests that places can be at once a physical space, but also a collection of memories. Places are physical and somehow more than that. Going back to a specific location does not necessarily guarantee the same feeling, or the same experience, that we had before.

Interestingly, that’s rather reminiscent of heading back to the office. I’ll be at the front of the queue for some semblance of routine and getting back to something I recognise as ‘normal for me’, we must all accept that we are unlikely to be able to recreate the memories and experiences we had before for some time yet. What we go back to will be different. The world has changed. We have changed. Some of the routines that we once took for granted have gone, and on reflection, that’s possibly not a bad thing in every instance (no, I don’t want to try your new drink and share your straw (metal, obviously!), thank you).

That said, although it may be different, I for one am looking forward to getting back to the office and spending time with colleagues. The office provides our team with an opportunity to be creative and innovative in a way that we’ve not yet mastered in a virtual world. And for a growing team, getting to know each other is crucial, and that is just easier face to face.

I know that not everyone will agree. Some people would prefer to stay at home for the foreseeable, I’m sure. I for one can’t wait to reclaim our place and make new memories that we’ll look back on fondly in the future, like a picture hanging on a wall.

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