So last Thursday, I did my first session of #MartiniWorking. As a little reminder, this is our current Lab test that is looking at whether you can work any place, anytime, anywhere and what benefits this could have for colleagues if they can effectively design their own work days.
I've always been pretty cool with mobile working. Living in the South West of England and working in the Midlands means you have to get pretty flexible and work from a mix of offices, home, even your car, without giving it a second thought. It also fits my personality - I'm one who bounces off people, buzz and mental stimulation, and I think silence should be reserved for exams only. For me, work is what I do, not the place in which that I do it.
#MartiniWorking isn't just a posh name for mobile working though. The very concept of designing your own work day also means abandoning the 9 to 5 adage and getting comfortable with pushing the boundaries. This is music to my ears - through my years of studying with the Open University whilst working full time, I quickly got to realise that my brain functions much better in the afternoons and evenings as this was when most of my inspired (and highest scoring) essays and projects were written. Couple that with the fact that I HATE mornings, this idea definitely appeals! And it's not just me - even @RedBullUK are advocating that the UK gets smarter at designing a work day to increase productivity with them coining Friday 15th September as National #4pmFinish.
As Simon stated in his #MartiniWorking blog post last week, we have access to the technology we need, so I jumped on the train and headed into Bristol to spend the day working from various venues to see whether I could indeed still work from anywhere and if this helped me feel more inspired.
Starbucks Cabot Circus was my first stop. As I had deliberately avoided rush hour and set off about 9am, I arrived there at just after 9.30am feeling refreshed and ready to go. I spent my time here organising the rest of my week, responding to emails and working on a test scoping document via Google Drive. Before I knew it, I was buying another hour of WiFi (you do get it free in Starbucks, but depending on where you sit, depends on whether it stays connected which is REALLY annoying when you are in the middle of something) and another drink. I couldn't believe how quickly the time had gone and also how much I had managed to get done sat in a busy, city centre coffee shop. One observation was that I was most definitely not alone - as I paused to look around, there were at least two business meetings taking place and 6 other people sat alone working away on laptops. Starbucks themselves obviously welcome patrons to work from there with signs everywhere advising people to just let a barista know you would like a refill as they would bring it over. That sorts out the 'what do I do with my stuff' dilemma then.....
As it was approaching lunchtime, I decided to move on and try somewhere else and I called into the M Shed Bristol, situated right on the waterfront. The M Shed is part of the Bristol Museum Group and tells the story of the city and its unique place in the world through a mixture of galleries and exhibitions. Rather selfishly, I've also been to many conferences and events here so I knew the refreshments (mostly cake based) were excellent. I set up camp in the coffee shop downstairs and carried on with my scoping document but as the visitor traffic was much higher, it was harder to concentrate. After about an hour, I realised that I wasn't functioning as productively as I could, so I decided to grab some lunch with a friend and go in search of my next venue.
I'd been doing some research into inspiring places to work, so was keen to try @Bristol Science Centre, just a stones throw from the waterfront. I'd found that they had an exhibition called 'The Tinkering Space' in for the summer which has focused on robotics, so I decide to use part of my #MartiniWorking day for research and development, particularly given that we are looking to do some tests involving humanoids and A.I. The team and I have been keen to play with a robot for some time, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity....
I may not have been in front of a laptop, but I got just as much from my afternoon @Bristol simply wandering around and interacting with the exhibits, all the while thinking how it could apply to tests we are currently designing. It opened my mind to being more creative in deployment opportunities as well as giving me a chance to observe others and see how they reacted to such technology. Such insights we often completely miss as we are so wrapped up in the here and now but they are vital in designing concepts as it could be the make or break point which encourages participation and changes to behaviours.
The best way to illustrate this is the interactions with Baxter, the Co-Bot. Baxter has been installed and visitors are encouraged to work with Baxter to build a tower out of blocks without using your hands. Children would come up to Baxter and just crack on, trying things out until they got it to work. Adults, however, would pause, reflect and think about how they were going to approach the task at hand. Both got the same result but it highlighted that there is obviously something that forms in your subconscious as you grow and develop that may stifle the 'crack on and do it' spirit. I made a mental note to remember this and think about ways we might address this in future tests.
So far, so good. I really enjoyed my #MartiniWorking experience and I can't wait to plan my next one. My main learning outcome from the day is to make sure to select a venue that is appropriate for the type of work you're doing and be brave enough to call it when you realise its just not helping you to be your best. I realised that my second stop at the M Shed wasn't working in terms of sitting in front of a laptop, but I'll definitely use it again when I I want to design an inspiration session, as a quick wander round the exhibitions before grabbing a coffee and documenting my thoughts would really work.
The only negative was that I didn't really do too much in terms of breaking the 9 to 5 boundaries, but it was good to be able to have the freedom to choose where I wanted to be and when. I'm sure I can leave a 10pm finish for another day.......