Purpose: This study aims to critically evaluate the COVID-19 and future post-COVID-19 impacts on office design, location and functioning with respect to government and community occupational health and safety expectations. It aims to assess how office efficiency and cost control agendas intersect with corporate social accountability. Design/methodology/approach: Theoretically informed by governmentality and social accountability through action, it thematically examines research literature and Web-based professional and business reports. It undertakes a timely analysis of historical office trends and emerging practice discourse during the COVID-19 global pandemic's early phase. Findings: COVID-19 has induced a transition to teleworking, impending office design and configuration reversals and office working protocol re-engineering. Management strategies reflect prioritisation choices between occupational health and safety versus financial returns. Beyond formal accountability reports, office management strategy and rationales will become physically observable and accountable to office staff and other parties. Research limitations/implications: Future research must determine the balance of office change strategies employed and their evident focus on occupational health and safety or cost control and financial returns. Further investigation can reveal the relationship between formal reporting and observed activities. Practical implications: Organisations face strategic decisions concerning both their balancing of employee and public health and safety against capital expenditure and operation cost commitments to COVID-19 transmission prevention. They also face strategic accountability decisions as to the visibility and correspondence between their observable actions and their formal social responsibility reporting. Social implications: Organisations have continued scientific management office cost reduction strategies under the guise of innovative office designs. This historic trend will be tested by a pandemic, which calls for control of its spread, including radical changes to the office at potentially significant cost. Originality/value: This paper presents one of few office studies in the accounting research literature, recognising it as central to contemporary organisational functioning and revealing the office cost control tradition as a challenge for employee and community health and safety.


Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Cite as

Parker, L. 2020, 'The Covid-19 office in transition: cost, efficiency and the social responsibility business case', Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 33(8), pp. 1943-1967. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-06-2020-4609

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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