Corporeal being meets remote working

I’ve been thinking a bit about physical workspaces.

Which may be related to the fact that I’ve been talking to my colleagues at the Satori Lab about physical workspaces.

We have an office. It’s in central Cardiff which is, in principle, a good location.

Central Cardiff isn’t ideal for me because, well, I live in Hereford. Cardiff is a 70 minute train ride from Hereford and with journey time at both end that’s a 90 minute journey each way.

So I don’t go into the office every day. In fact none of us do, we work flexibly and remotely. And we spend a lot of time working with clients in their offices or running workshops in hotels, conference centres or meeting rooms in their offices.

Of course all of these places are physical workplaces. We are corporeal. Our work has to take place in the real world even if we are mentally on Slack and Google Drive. The physical workplace affects our mood, our productivity and our satisfaction for the task.

It has practical implications.

  • Maybe I need to print out some full colour A1 posters. Hard to do at home.
  • And I’d really like to have another look at Make Space. But it’s in the bookcase in Cardiff.
  • I’m a bit bored. What I could really do with is a nice cuppa and a chat with Jo in Milk and Sugar.

And there are things that are really hard to do if you’re not in the same physical workplace. It’s hard to do notably creative collaboration remotely. And if you live by the mantra “show the thing” that really helps if we can both grab hold of the thing and work on it together.

And just being in a place with people you trust and respect who are committed to the same mission as you can be rewarding and empowering.

There are cultural dimensions too.

The location of a company’s “office” or “headquarters” shapes how others feel about the company. Being based in Cardiff makes The Satori Lab part of the culture and community of Cardiff, South Wales and the nation of Wales. (And frankly I think we’re all very happy with that).

It’s hard not to feel a bit left out if you are a periodic visitor to the office compared to people who visit every day. And the truth is The Satori Lab is not going to relocate within cycling distance of my house no matter how much I might like that. Either I move or I will always be physically distant.

In summary: there is a lot of stuff wrapped up in discussions about physical workspaces.

So we had a short session yesterday with the Satori Lab team throwing out our initial thoughts on what we need (and want) from a physical workspace. We’ve turned these into user needs. These don’t necessarily need to be met from the same space. I’ve published our initial list (it’s a live doc so it may change without notice).

We need to reflect on this some more. I need to reflect on this some more.

And it has reminded me that I need to learn more about workplace design, in particular good data on the implications for the people who use the space.

So I’d love it if anyone has links, references or books to recommend on this topic.

PS I shared a draft of this and my colleague Jo Carter handed me this “It is a 20 min video of a conversation at Delight Conference with the designers of the Airbnb offices explaining how they went about designing their offices.”

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