REVIEW: Office Shock — Johansen, Press, Bullen (BOOK)

Colin Jordan
3 min readJan 17, 2023

Bob Johansen, Joseph Press, and Christine Bullen’s new book is titled Office Shock: Creating Better Futures for Working and Living. In effect, what Johansen, Press, and Bullen advocate for in terms of altruism feels age-old. Yet it’s painfully relevant in an era where Covid, mass depression, and a sense in both literal and metaphorical context alienation and isolation reign. What the trio advocates for is essentially embracing things in the current state, and seeing the upside when it comes to the promise of the tech and the structure of the ‘remote workplace’, the ‘remote conference’, and what essentially they deem cogs in a postmodernist workplace setting as a whole.

RELATED URL: https://www.iftf.org/projects/officeshock

INSTITUTE FOR THE FUTURE: https://iftf.org/

“Office shock has already created work/life challenges that many people flipped into positives. The experience of working from home during the pandemic, however, was often deeply unfair. Many privileged people loved the flexibility and thrived, but for people with small workspaces at home or little kids and no childcare, the experience was often stressful and sometimes traumatizing. For many the new flexibility was liberating; for others it was awful. But the future of office work doesn’t have to be that unfair,” Johansen, Press, and Bullen write plainly. “…It is difficult to even talk about the future of offices and officing without relying on language that doesn’t capture what we are trying to imagine.

As futurists, we often turn to fiction for inspiration in situations like this. Science fiction and fantasy help us to stretch how we think and explore the future through the power of stories. Fiction gives us new language and agency. Stories help us imagine and engage with futures we have trouble imagining.”

They add, “Many people are stuck in a cage called now while occasionally thinking about

what’s next and only rarely thinking about the future. We need to release ourselves from thinking only present-forward. Being here now and mindful can be virtuous, but not if we are trapped in the now. Are you stuck in the present? Do you feel owned by the present? If so, you need future- back thinking to explore where the mules will be heading. Looking long will help you find your clarity so you can be very clear about your direction but very flexible about how you will get there.

You can be clear; you cannot be certain…Most people today, however, are stuck in linear time: Now, next, future. Most people are locked unconsciously in what neuroscientists call ‘The Eternal Now.’ Thinking present-forward means that you can see only incremental change, but you are blinded by unexamined categorical thinking that makes the unprecedented seem impossible. Present-forward thinking keeps you in cautious lockstep and hides any future you cannot bring yourself to imagine. We need to move from thinking present-forward to thinking future-back. As summarized in figure 2, we require a shift in mindset.”

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Office-Shock-Creating-Futures-Working/dp/1523003677/

Johansen, Press, and Bullen are decidedly thorough with how they go through all of the possibilities, and current realities, from A to Z. That’s to be commended in and of itself, let alone how succinctly and articulately they make such observations for the widest possible audience…

Colin Jordan

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Colin Jordan

Graduate: McNeese State University, Avid Beekeeper, Deep Sea Diver & Fisherman, Horrible Golfer