• melissafretwell

Finding my space

Updated: Sep 1

Not that myspace, you'll have to ask Justin Timberlake what happened there. This is about finding your work space where your head and heart can thrive.

The pandemic isn’t exactly over but having to explain why I am able to deliver from a post code that isn’t in central London (as I tap away in front of a blasting fan in what’s down to be one of the hottest Augusts Spain has seen in a v. long time, forever grateful of the island breeze and not living in Seville) is no longer a point of consternation or an overhead that hangs heavy.


We caught up with two excellent folks Max Burgess and Annika Hart who make it their business to know what the most fruitful workstyles can look like, how to stick to those boundaries and share their top 3 tips for finding what works for you.


Max Burgess, Co-Founder at Yolk Workspace who spent many years as a television editor in London, growing more and more frustrated that he was chained to his little sound-proofed box.


“I was searching for more flexibility and variety in my work life and this led me to relocate to my wife’s home city of Kraków in Poland. A wonderful medieval city, which after London, felt not too small and not too big.


Along with my wife, I started a small cycling brand producing clothing and organising tours, it was almost perfect apart from the fact we both worked from home in a bubble that at times felt claustrophobic. I was desperate for a thriving workspace, but the logistics of cycling fashion made it almost impossible. Or so I thought. The birth of our daughter changed everything, I realised that I would never get any work done at home again.


The office that I took for the cycling business soon morphed into a mini coworking space which then grew to a slightly bigger space that now encompasses two offices and a cafe-coworking space.


We launched Yolk in February 2020 and were open for 6 weeks before we had to close our doors again due to the pandemic. A hugely stressful time but we knew that if we could keep pedalling for the next few months, then it might just pan out.


The pandemic taught us some very important lessons. We saw that our role wasn’t to rent desks or provide a stable internet connection. It was about creating connections and collaborations between our members.


We are social creatures and need the interactions that are not possible in a work-from-home one-bedroom apartment. That’s why we tried to create the most flexible spaces we could. We now offer different areas to work which have different vibes from the standard office desk space, a cafe-style set up or even tables in our courtyard garden. The big corporations are finally changing too. More and more we are seeing members come to work in our workspace rather than their own office.


In the past year we have watched one of our members launch a small business in our space. We have been proud to see it grow and have some input in it as well. But what makes us even more proud is the way he leveraged the network of people at our coworking space to help bring it life. Sometimes we help make the connections and other times it’s serendipitously over a drink at one of our member events. This is where a flexible workspace or coworking space can truly amplify the efforts of a new business."

So onto Max’s 3 top tips for making a space like his work for you...

1. Think of coworking as more than a place to do work. Think about it as a window into a networking community - people who have often been through the same problems you might be going through. Remember even if the person working next to you can’t help you, they might know someone who can. People like to be generous.
2. Try to talk to as many people as you can in a flexible workspace. The people that get more value from these spaces are the ones who are the most open, who attend the member events and try to get to know their coworkers.
3. Take your time to choose the right flexible workspace. Check how the community interacts, how many events they put on, who are the other members? Ask about demo days to get a feel for the space and push to get more than one day, you can’t always judge a space in one day!

Thanks for those inspiring insights Max. But if you’re anything like us you may now be wondering what an Organisational Psychologist would make of all of this?


Wonder no longer, Annika Hart is right here. She helps organisations adopt the ways of working that are proven to increase wellbeing, engagement, and productivity. As MD of Futureproofing at B Corp Hoxby, she also heads up the research team - empirically proving that #workstyle (true autonomy over the when and where of work) is beneficial for individuals and for businesses. So Annika tell us about your workstyle.


“For me it has always been about finding my space mentally more than physically. Physically I am pretty happy working anywhere. Today I am working from a friend’s kitchen table. She left me her keys as she is away for a long weekend. I can’t work at my own home as the babysitter is there looking after my very chatty 13 month old. We are also stuck in our current flat due to the UK cladding scandal and with my husband working from home due to covid I haven’t had space for a desk of my own. On other days I work from cafes, a friend’s office that has been pretty empty since covid struck, my mum’s house. I used to pay for a co-working space but things (mostly childcare) have been so unpredictable lately that I haven’t been able to justify the expense.


However, not having a dedicated physical space to work in means you do have to work a little harder to find that elusive work-life balance and to figure out how to be most productive, engaged, and happy. My three top tips for making your mental space work are;

1. Setting boundaries is incredibly important. Deciding when you will switch off and then sticking to that. When your laptop follows you wherever you go, it is always tempting to open it up and quickly check your emails or your slack messages. But when you feel constantly switched on or distracted your mental health suffers. I try to keep my laptop out of sight when I am not working, in a different room or at the very least zipped up in its case. It provides a physically boundary and reminder not to open it up.
2. You also have to be far more organised. It’s not always possible to do a video meeting from a noisy restaurant. So you need to plan your days around what you have booked in the calendar. And don’t be scared to postpone if you don’t think your current environment is conducive to a productive meeting. There is nothing worse than hearing half sentences or having to repeat yourself over the loud couple at the table next to you. It’s far more efficient to just rearrange.
3. Lastly, find a virtual community that can come with you wherever you are. As a member of Hoxby I have constant access to a supportive network that inspire and challenge me to do my best work. I have regular virtual coffee catch ups with other Hoxbies. I have made some truly amazing connections with people I have never been physically in the same space with. I disagree with anyone that says you need to meet face to face to do your best work.
4. And as a bonus tip, take some time to consider your work as a whole and define your workstyle so that you can figure out what space would most help you respect it. Like your lifestyle, you should have the freedom to set your workstyle and decide how, when and where you work. Think about why you work. What do you value? What gives you energy? How do you want to work? What do you want to work on? The when, the where, and the who you work with should all enable and support your workstyle.

Some scrumptious food for thought, love the way we got an extra helping from Annika there. Whether you can stretch to a dreamy co-working space or get creative with the shared resources you have, it’s over to you to make this here life as fulfilling as possible. Now is there time for a quick bake break before our next client call, just 45 mins for carrot cake right?

Melissa Fretwell is the founder of White Camino and ardent lover of cake.

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