Ashland business columnist Paula M Parker endorses return to power


Paula M. Parker

A Sumerian bazaar desktop environment. Wacky idea? Maybe not.

Post-pandemic, companies are scrambling to redesign the workplace. From a distance. Hybrid. Some employees never want to go back to the office again.

Meanwhile, a business must generate revenue; otherwise it’s just an idea. I’ve been around for a while, producing in and out of an office. As a counselor, here’s what I know to be true: Humans need to be with other humans.

Step into the revival of the American workplace, Sumerian bazaar style.

Now called trade fairs, Sumerian bazaars and European trade fairs have existed since the dawn of civilization. They fulfill a basic human need – to connect with other humans.

Boom. This also applies in business. Because there is no identical substitute for face-to-face communication. People will say things in person that they would never say over text or email. Conversely, some people would rather eat a bowl of bugs than talk on a Zoom call.

The point: humans are wired for connection. It’s in our DNA. Human contact is essential to the survival of our species. From a distance. Hybrid. There’s no one answer for every business, but who can ignore improved mental health, longer lifespan, and better quality of life through human connection. Or as Robin S. Sharma said, “The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.

Some may ask: why do I need to be in the office, I can do my work from home? Point taken. After tasting it, employees will not easily give up their freedom. But indefinite cocooning has repercussions, and isolation breeds depression.

Corporate America, meet the workplace renaissance. A Sumerian bazaar, trade fair or just being in an office is a successful concept because you have a specific reason to cool off, jump on your donkey, drive or fly somewhere to be physically present. There’s something out there, someone you want to see and something you want to do that you can’t do wearing pajamas in your dining room office.

The key word is want to be physically present. It’s powerful, psychologically. Do your job successfully from home, or in Panera or Bermuda. Then go to the office for a specific reason. A brainstorming session. A new product demo. A pep’s rally lunch (yes, I said it).

Teams can accomplish more in a quick meeting than in an 87 email thread. In person, you understand things in a deeply tangible way, engaging all five senses, not just two. Could the office mini-bazaar concept with a 21st century twist be the answer? In the words of Nitin Namdeo, “There is no problem you cannot solve if you focus on the solutions.”

I rarely look back to move forward, except for things that never change – human nature and the basic need for people to see and do things in person with others. Behold the rebirth of the American workplace. I go to the Sumerian Bazaar. My donkey has room for two.

Paula M. Parker, an Ashland resident, is an owner’s advisor who sets up businesses to thrive. Contact her at


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