To research our guide on Not Working From Home, we spoke to a number of innovators who are leading the charge in alternative ways of working. Brooke Hurford is COO and co-founder of Workfrom, one of the most established platforms for finding places to work from, and an early pioneer in alternative work places.
We asked Brooke for her views on the changing landscape of where we work, why people need options others than home, and how digital could be a part of the answer for the future workplace.
Brooke, thanks for spending some time with us! I'm really interested in what you're seeing in your community after a year or more of enforced working from home: are people wanting to work from different spaces now, and what are the benefits in working elsewhere than home?
Yes! People are definitely wanting to work from other spaces. After being stuck at home it’s so awesome to get back to our favorite coffee shops and be around other humans.
On a high level, the benefits of working elsewhere other than home are increased productivity and improved mental health. Getting out and being around people is something we are all really craving, and the change of environment sparks creativity and productivity. Plus it's just fun to find your favorite vibes :)
There's a huge range of types of spaces to work from, and workfrom has been helping people find them for years - have you seen any trends and changes in behaviours over the past few years of where people are working from?
The biggest change is that more people are working this way. More people are seeing just how many options there are and that you really can find the flavor that works for you. There is also an increase in “work-friendly” spaces. Whether it’s hostels, hotels, or coffee shops built specifically for coworking – it is becoming much more common to see these types of unconventional workspaces.
What do people generally want from spaces outside their home, i.e. is it just about a different space, or are they looking for tech, community, coffee? What's important to people?
Strong wifi is always number one and power outlets is a close second. Outside of that people love to know how noisy a space might be because they want to meet with clients or coworkers. People also look for places based on what type of seating there is, whether they serve lunch, etc. A lot of personal preference goes into finding what unconventional workspaces you love.
Community can also be a big reason to get out of the house, especially now. By creating a routine around a certain space it becomes easy to recognize faces and meet other people – this is an especially popular tactic when people are new to a city.
What are the downsides of working from non-dedicated workspaces like coffee shops, libraries, etc?
Some popular spaces can get quite busy, it sucks to show up somewhere and have there be no place to sit. Another one includes if you do a lot of calls, coffee shops can get loud – so a lot of people plan around days that they have a lot of meetings.
You're building virtual workspaces, can you explain what a virtual workspace is, how it differs from perhaps just something like a slack channel, and why they're a powerful tool to create connection and support?
A virtual workspace is a dedicated space where a host can create a coworking environment for their community or team. We combine the use of video, background music, and beautiful design to create virtual spaces people love to be in. With the use of modes, you can create a silent coworking environment that removes the need to talk and you can really get straight into work while still being around others.
Virtual workspaces are meant to give you that “working around others feeling”, that feeling we missed by not being able to go to coffee shops. You can see faces of others working, have a quick catch-up in chat, and get into your flow with great jams on in the background. This is something you don’t get from a text-based tool like Slack.
Virtual workspaces are powerful because they feel like you are at a place with other people. They create a space to feel less isolated and trigger productivity and flow. You can quickly form relationships or build on existing ones just by seeing each other in these virtual spaces.
How do you think the 'workplace' is going to change over the coming years, and what is most exciting to you about this?
The workplace as we know it is going to be fluid. It is going to be flexible and it will be in the hands of the individuals to choose what works best for them. Everyone will choose the perfect balance of which environments, either IRL or virtual, promote productivity and good mental health for them.
This is exciting to me because it's why I started working remotely. I want to help people be successful in remote work and workplace flexibility because it allows us all to create the lives we want for ourselves.