In the Lab, we recently refreshed our work principles as we thought the original ones had evolved somewhat since we last blogged about them. We've been busy with the discovery work for Bromford's transformation programme, so it has meant we haven't been able to get out and about as much, but since the next stage is to synthesise, build and design packages of work, it seemed the right time to re-evaluate our approach to support this critical design work. The new version is above and we'd love to hear your thoughts.
Thursday came around and the sun hat its hat on (instead of its snow boots!) so I grabbed the opportunity to jump on the train and head into Bristol for a spot of #workfromanywhere
Since arriving at Bromford, I think I've gotten pretty good at working from anywhere - I mean, when you live 140 miles away from the Lab's physical base, you kind of have to be, but working from home gets a little stale. There are only so many conversations I can have with my cat before I start missing human interaction (sorry Gizmo) and long to be in the outside world. Plus, there is only so much inspiration and when you are alone with your thoughts, you aren't able to take advantage of other people to bounce ideas off or just talk through your thinking process to get a clearer sense of successful direction.
Bristol is a fantastic, vibrant city and was recently voted one of the top 3 cities to launch as start up in the UK, as well as regularly being voted highly as one of the best places to work. With a huge focus on tech (the Bristol VR Lab has recently opened its doors, many aerospace and engineering companies count it as their home and not forgetting UWE, which has one of the leading robotics laboratories in the UK) I've always been curious as to the potential benefits the Lab could gain from making connections with such businesses, particularly as we explore our approach to digital and human behaviour in relation to this area.
I've worked from Bristol before and whilst it was great, one of the biggest downsides for me was being in a public space, I felt like I was overstaying my welcome after about 2 hours, so I had to move around a bit, which isn't ideal if you suddenly strike inspirational gold. Nothing will kill that vibe quicker than an angry barista giving you side eye over blueberry muffins but by the same token, the hot desking environments of old were just that - replicas of dull, grey offices.
Luckily for us, the booming start up culture in the UK has led to a nu-wave of hot desking and collaboration spaces where innovation and creativity are at the very centre of their offering. Wasn't long before a quick Google search led me to Desk Lodge Bristol, so there I headed.
Set up in the old Bristol Evening Post building, Desk Lodge is literally slap bang in the middle of the thriving commercial area of the City just a few minutes walk away from Temple Meads station and Cabot Circus (so lunch options are covered!) Whilst there are a small amount of permanent offices, the majority of the space is filled up with hot desks and meeting rooms that are the stuff of Pinterest dreams. Everything is connected by super fast WiFi with plenty of other up to the minute tech to support a collaboration session or business meeting. You can walk in off the street on an ad-hoc basis at a rate of £3 per hour (capped at £20 a day) or become a member to get reduced rates which start from just £10 per month for 6 hours.
Yes there is a Tardis. And a Lego themed meeting area. And two garden sheds that double up as meeting rooms. But what I was really impressed at was the atmosphere and friendliness of everyone that used this space. When you are working from a Starbucks, there is always the dilemma of what you do with your things when you need a toilet break. Here, I was able to pop out to lunch and just literally lock my computer as I would if I was in Exchange Court - people treat it like an office, so you don't have those working in public worries. Want a coffee? Head over to the machine where they serve it just like your friendly barista. Need some cutlery to eat your lunch with? Pop over to the break out area where there is plenty and even a dishwasher to clean it when you are done.
In terms of work, I had a really productive day. Being in a setting as funky and well connected as this meant I was able to power through my to do list, take part in a webinar and make some new connections without even batting an eye lid. Although it doesn't feel like your typical office, its decor is exciting and inspiring, not distracting, so you have the professional mind set to focus and crack on.
One thing was painfully aware of working in this space was how out of date my kit is for this type of working. I'm not knocking my laptop, it's functional and does the job it needs to do, but the dull ache that is still in my right shoulder is there to remind me that one of the biggest requirements for working from anywhere is that it shouldn't weigh a tonne. If I tried to carry this thing with one hand like everyone else seemed to do as they wandered around between meeting spaces and their hot desk, I'm not sure my wrists would thank me.
To be clear, I'm not advocating that all organisations who want their colleagues to mobile work go out and buy Apple Macs, but offering a range of options needs to be a consideration in their procurement (just like Halton Housing do). A couple of people I spoke with were using Chromebooks that cost less than £200, so there is bound to be something for everyone out there!
The verdict? I'm definitely planning on making Desk Lodge Bristol one of my regular spots - I've even got my own key for my next visit. Just this time I'll bring my Mac to save me looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame by the time I'm 40.....