Why where we work is as important as what we do.
In our work lives there’s so much attention on what we do and why we do it. But not so much on where we do it.
Why is that? Why do so many organisations not pay attention to the environment they provide their workers? Why do some businesses invest in high salaries and provide attractive perks, only to ruin it by creating a drab work space?
Where we work is so important. I think it’s the difference between a dreary Monday and a Monday full of promise. It can be the difference between a dull meeting and an inspiring one.
So it still surprises me how the board room is the default venue for meetings in so many businesses. Board rooms are often sterile and devoid of energy. What about the corner coffee shop? How about taking a stroll around the corner? The combination of fresh air and the buzz of a local coffee shop would more than likely beat the boardroom at providing that new perspective you’ve been seeking.
I think carefully about where I work. As an independent, I’m lucky that I’ve been able to carve out a nomadic work life where I can select the best environment for the job in hand. My attic studio, my dining table, a coffee shop, a private member’s club or client office.
I can’t plonk myself just anywhere. Choosing the right space matters.
Recently I’ve been working with the agency Rooster Punk, basing myself at their office a couple of days a week. What I like about Rooster Punk is their mission to ‘create brands that matter’; I also like that they care about where they work. They’re based at Second Home, off Brick Lane in east London.
Second Home is not your average co-working space. Designed by award-winning Spanish architects SelgasCano, fellow architect Richard Rogers describes it as ‘magnificent, a real spatial and organisational breakthrough’.
It is a great space to work in. I particularly appreciate how Second Home mirrors my ideal set-up, all under one roof. An office with co-workers — and a friendly dog — where I get things done. Plenty of shared spaces for roaming and making phone calls. A digital-free zone for reading and thinking. A bright and airy foyer for grabbing a tea or coffee, having a chat or bumping into interesting people.
In the mid 90s I worked in an oppressive grey office with no air flow and no view. The experience gave me a three-month headache. Literally. Here at Second Home, natural light floods the building. The glass walls, the abundance of plants. The colours.
On a bright day, sunlight weaves through the open space. On a miserable day, it’s still has a positive vibe. I love it.
The transparency of the architecture creates a transparency of experience. Everyone can see everyone else. I find that seeing others at work really fuels me. Whether it’s seeing a bunch of lone workers at their MacBooks, a group huddled around a table or a General Assembly workshop in action — it has a sense of being a really happening place. There’s an almost tangible buzz of energy.
There’s a bonus to the location. Last month, Second Home opened London’s newest bookshop, Libreria, just over the road. It’s a beautiful space. In Second Home you never know who you might bump into, here in Libreria you never know what book you might bump into (I discovered books by David Foster Wallace and Judd Apatow on my first visit).
Okay, not everyone will be lucky enough to work from a space like Second Home. But organisations should think more about the environments where they place their staff. If you want your people to do good work, you’d better give them a good space to do it in. It really does matter.
Ian Sanders is a storyteller and consultant who gets people, brands and organisations fired up about their story and purpose.