Work is a thing you do, not a place you go

Work is a thing you do, not a place you go.

IMG_3863I couldn’t agree more with this statement. What happens when you try something new?

Today’s guest writer is going to share what happened when he encouraged colleagues to swap their office for a tree for an afternoon. Honestly. Stay tuned…

Last week I spent a day trying out flexible office space near Paddington station in London (pictured) as part of my preparation to return to work post-maternity leave.

Being in a new environment enthused me. Armed with tea and a notepad full of ideas, I had an incredibly productive time and thoroughly enjoyed making plans.

My workthe thing I do – means I get to think, create and advise in some diverse locations as I help comms professionals and their companies achieve communication excellence.

I regularly spend time in clients’ offices or logging on remotely. It doesn’t matter where I am – the place I go – but what I’m doing.

Someone who shares my thoughts on the topic of work and culture is Steven Murgatroyd @steve_murg (pictured). Steve has written for my blog a number of times over the years, and we both actively support Culturevist, which brings like-minded people together.

He’s the Vice Chair of CIPR Inside and a Creative Communications Specialist at Vista, I always enjoy our conversations and it’s a pleasure to share his thoughts here.

I’ll hand you over to Steve…

Work is a thing you do, not a place you go

StevenmurgatroydCulture is a huge thing for both employees and employers and we get asked to help on culture change programmes, helping to define employee value propositions as well as mission, vision and values for some of the biggest household brands.

When it comes to culture, one area often spoken about but not always explored in as much detail is flexible working.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog on LinkedIn called ‘It doesn’t matter where you work, just how you work!’

The article described how the era of having to be sat at a desk in an office to work is gone (or at least going) and companies need to accept this change and prepare for it rather than resist it.

This was before I joined Vista, so when I started earlier this year I was looking forward to testing these ideas in our own environment.

Keeping up with changes

The world is changing faster than most people can keep up with. Some of these changes are physical (e.g. better hardware), others are cultural and that’s where I enjoy focusing my time and thinking of creative things we can do.

Flexible working is much bigger than just working from home or bring your own device, at its core it’s a belief that work is a thing you do, not a place you go. (Tweet this)

Steve Murgatroyd quoteEverybody works differently and finds productivity in different methods. I enjoy listening to music, but have worked with people who need absolute silence to be able to focus.

I know people who much prefer to start work early so they can finish earlier, but I’m not much of a morning person and will happily start a bit later so I can hit a couple of extra snoozes on my alarm.

With all these differing needs, can one space solve them all? It’s unlikely, unless you have a space big enough to create different areas like the Google campus. So what are the other options?

Common misconceptions

Working from home has always been the classic way around this. Some companies promote it, others tolerate it and some actively discourage it.

The common misconception is that when you work from home you ‘slack off’; you sleep in, work less hours and finish earlier. While this might be the case for some people it’s not the case for all.

If you’re worried that your employees won’t work hard when they’re at home, then you have a much bigger problem in your organisation than flexible working. You have zero trust, and without trust your employees will never be happy. (Tweet this)

But working from home is just the tip of the iceberg when you talk about flexible working. Some people find the office environment limiting and frustrating, but don’t necessarily enjoy being home by themselves (my girlfriend will tell you that after I’ve worked at home for the day I proceed to spend the first hour of her getting home telling her everything I’ve done and thought throughout the day).

So what other options are there?

Steven Murgatroyd The world of working from a coffee shop is well-known and there are plenty of examples of people who have done great things from a coffee shop (JK Rowling being possibly the most famous.)

I like working from a coffee shop, but as my drink of choice is a black Americano I often end the day with enough caffeine in my body to keep me awake for a month.

So how can I work flexibly, but not end up with the caffeine shakes?

Open source office space

My personal favourite option is what I call ‘open source office space’. To explain it very simply it’s a business agnostic workspace.

It’s desks for hire and anyone can work there. The reason I love these types of spaces is because you get to work with such a variety of people, people who are working on things you have never heard of before. You get to learn from them, teach them things and possibly build relationships and even businesses.

One great example of this is Impact Hub which is based in a number of areas around London and home to some very influential and interesting businesses. It’s a great place to learn and work at the same time. (I was in a similar place, The Office Group, last week – Rachel).

I decided to test the open source office space concept on my colleagues at Vista. East London is a cool place, things happen here that don’t happen in other parts of London and recently I noticed something being built around a tree in Hoxton Square, @HoxtonxTree (pictured), which is one minute’s walk from our Shoreditch office.

Horton Tree

I realised it was an office space and after some further investigation, found you were able to book the space out and use it for whatever you want. I was excited! This was my chance to bring some of this flexible working to Vista.

So we found a date that everyone could do, got it booked, and last week we spent the afternoon working out of the tree office. With full Wi-Fi and power sources, there was no drop in productivity compared to being sat in the office.

The only thing that changed was the increase in excitement that we all experienced from working somewhere new and different.

Steve Murgatroyd quoteOnce the working day was done, we even spent another hour sat sharing a drink and chatting, which was a great way to end the afternoon.

The team have said it was a great experience and helped to get them thinking differently about what work is (a thing you do, not a place you go to.)

I’m excited about bringing more of these ideas to the team internally, but also our clients and helping them to think differently and experience things they would never do without the help of Vista.

Why not try an open source office space with your team?

Our top tips are below:

Top tips for flexible working in your business:

  1. Trust your employees – empowerment is key to success
  2. Measure output, not time spent at the desk
  3. Train managers to be comfortable with open source working
  4. Use a tool that allows collaboration when out of the office such as Skype or Yammer
  5. Don’t force anything, some people will still prefer to be at the office.

Post author: Steven Murgatroyd.

Thank you Steve. What do you think of these ideas? They won’t work for every company, for example retail or transport organisations, but could there be ways of encouraging your employees to work flexibly or find ways to support them in thinking differently about their work?

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below, or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.


First published on All Things IC blog 6 August 2015.


  1. […] in 2015, I featured an article on my All Things IC blog and I featured Steven Murgatroyd, who is a communicator here in the UK. We wrote about the fact […]

  2. […] reading on the All Things IC blog: Work is a thing you do, not a place you go  – published in 2015, featuring Steven […]

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