The COVID-19 pandemic marks 120 years of the public relations agency—and, some fear, the beginning of its end. (Though many people have referred to P.T. Barnum as the inventor of press agentry, the first more traditional publicity agency was founded by George Michaelis in Boston in 1900.)
I’m in the same boat as most freestanding public relations agencies when I wonder if I should continue paying rent for an abandoned space. Even prior to the pandemic, workplace psychologists and ergonomists alike had already predicted the death of the open-concept office. In hindsight, it’s abundantly clear that having a dozen people share a communal table, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in hard plastic chairs for eight hours a day, is downright inhumane.
I like to imagine that even the Edwardian-era bullpens of Michaelis’ day still allowed for each employee to have their own private workspace—and perhaps a handsome mahogany twin-pedestal desk with haberdashery drawers.