Yet although offices will not disappear, it is hard to imagine that working life will return to BC ways. For more than a century workers have stuffed themselves onto crowded trains and buses, or endured traffic jams, to get into the office, and back, five days a week. For the past two months they have not had to commute, and will have enjoyed the hiatus.
Employers, for their part, have maintained expensive digs in city centres because they needed to gather staff in one place. The rent is only part of the cost; there is the cleaning, lighting, printers, catering and security on top.When you work at home, you pay for your own utilities and food.
Many businesses and employees may thus have had their "Wizard of Oz" moment: the corporate HQ is shown to be an old man behind the curtain. Faith in the centralised office may never be restored.
Another aspect of the AD era may be the disappearance of the five-day working week. Even before the pandemic many workers became used to taking phone calls or answering emails at the weekend. In the AD era the barrier between home and working life, a useful way of relieving stress, will be even harder to sustain.
It may be lost altogether. Without the Monday-to-Friday commute, the weekend seems a more nebulous concept, as does the 9-to-5 working day. In future employees may work and take breaks when they please, with the company video call the only fixture. The downside, however, is that the rhythm of life has been disrupted and new routines are needed: as Madness, a British pop group, sang about school in "Baggy Trousers", people are reduced to "trying different ways to make a difference to the days".
Looking further out, the AD era may bring other changes. Some may decide to live in small towns where housing costs are lower, since they have no need to commute. Men will have fewer excuses to skip cleaning or child care if they are not disappearing to the office. In a sense, this is a return to normal: until the 19th century most people worked at or close to their homes. But social historians may still regard 2020 as the start of a new age.