YOU used to hear it on every sunny day in July; “It’s too nice to be in here working.”

Visit any town or city centre with a little green space at lunchtime and it was guaranteed to be filled by sunbathing office workers, less than enthusiastic about having to go back to work.

When it’s a beautiful day you may look forward to an equally beautiful evening. If the sun has gone by the time you get home, you feel cheated. At least locked-down workers from home don’t experience that these days. Yet I wish to speak in praise of offices. And I long for a return to one. I’ve wanted to work in one since I was at primary school.

My desire to work in newspapers began shortly after the death of my football dreams, and when I guessed there wouldn’t be many opportunities to become a secret agent.

In my teens I went through a brief phase of wanting to be a teacher, with a vague plan that I could write books during the summer holidays.

But then I decided I knew what classrooms and lecture theatres looked like already, but I didn’t know the interior of newspaper offices – and should widen my experience of life.

And these days more and more of us work in offices. We’re all familiar with the economic shift that has taken place in Britain over the last 40-odd years, away from manufacturing and towards services.

Factories, shipyards, coal mines and steelworks, once the source of so many jobs, now offer far fewer. Like so much else the trend can be traced to America. In 1956 white-collar workers overtook blue-collar workers for the first time in the US.

On the whole offices are cleaner and safer places to be, with lower risk of an industrial accident – except perhaps a paper cut. People of my grandparents’ generation, mostly employed in “traditional” working class jobs, often hoped that their children could find work in the comfier surroundings of an office, as pen-pushers of some description, or nowadays computer keyboard-tappers.

And next time you complain about being in the office on a sunny day, thank your lucky stars you’re not down a coal mine.

Some are predicting the death of office-based work as an after-effect of the coronavirus epidemic. People who are working from home now may choose to continue doing so, or be told to.

Personally I’ve always valued working in an office. I don’t have a car and walking there and back every day was the only regular exercise I got.

And if laughter is the best medicine then offices have other health-giving properties. Where would Ricky Gervais be today if it hadn’t been for his cringe-inducing but gloriously funny sitcom The Office?

Younger employees in particular need an office. You learn a lot there, from observing or questioning older, more experienced colleagues. At least I certainly did.

You’re more likely to receive encouraging praise or constructive advice from a co-worker if they can speak to you, rather than be bothered to put it all down in an email.

I can’t see how any sense of solidarity or co-operation can be fostered among a team who never see each other in the flesh. Many relationships, from friendships to marriages, are formed among people who work together. That will never happen in future if you don’t get to know your co-workers. Younger people often live in smaller properties or share flats or houses, and such an environment is far from ideal for home working.

And those who live alone, with friends and family far off, may find the only people they speak to on a typical weekday are the people they work with. It can’t be good for your mental state never to speak anyone face to face and sit alone all day every day.

Most of us feel a need to separate our working life from home life. It’s unhealthy not to. And you can make your office a homely environment anyway, with few personal touches.

My workstation bore a cartoon clipped from Private Eye years ago, of two cavemen clad in animal skins. One is showing the other a wooden club and the other is saying: “I don’t know, I’m something of a technophobe.”

One Monday morning I came in to find a headline attached to my computer screen. The News of the World had run some pictures of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately taken shortly before his death, under the words: “Stephen – sober and happy.”