Me sitting on a log working in the woods

I just got caught by someone in one of my new offices, in woodland on a hillside where I can alternate between work and riding my mountain bike. So I was photographed in the heinous act of not working in the office. It was he who suggested I put something on my website about it...and why.

Not doing the workspace thing

For the last couple of years, my workspace has been a co-working space which are cropping up almost everywhere. When I came across my local space after relocating to Bath, I signed up so that I would have an office space - naturally - and a space to work with my clients, should they wish to do so. It's a nice space, decent people and really nothing to complain about. It felt rather homely, actually.

Over the last year or so, I found myself using my office less and less. I also began to notice more how I felt and how my thinking was affected when I was there. I had my clients' offices and work environments to compare with too. These ranged from new funky co-working spaces in London's trendy tech and startup districts all the way to the more traditional professional services arrangements.

I explored how I was experiencing these spaces. I found myself wanting to do my work, but not in the office. I'd do better work in other places. I began to find myself with my clients outside as well. We'd take a walk along the river, find a comfortable location in a park. Outside London we could find ourselves walking through some woods and countryside.

Natural workspace

In outdoor spaces thinking would take a freer trajectory, there was a loosening and an opening up. Certainly more relaxed. We had some of the most transformational moments together. Sometimes it allowed us to sit together and be in a way we hadn't before, just in a quiet space. Silence is important in coaching, not unknown to be more important than the talking. These natural, open spaces, make the silence feel more natural than they do when you're sitting face to face across a desk or a meeting room. Less contrived somehow.

When I was inclined to write, I wanted to be somewhere that had fresh air, views and where I could be open to the elements too. It made my writing come more easily and the ideas tended to flow in a more fluid way.

Rethinking work

There's much talk in the coaching industry about creativity, innovation, ideas, collaboration, productivity, health, wellbeing. It's mostly about the employees and not a lot about the workplace environments and doing work differently.

But in workspace design the new buzzword has become biophilia, or biophilic design. This is based on the original work by Erich Fromm and then Edward O Wilson which is all based on the idea that humans have a natural affinity for nature and other living things. Just look at a breathtaking view.

Biophilic design suggests that more natural workspace designs are a good thing for productivity, health and wellbeing. Of course they may be, but they're still, essentially, office blocks.

These were ways that were born during the industrial era.

So how do our workspaces really work for modern work?