Business

Would you feel inspired in a weird workplace?

  • 31 August 2015
  • From the section Business
Shoreditch tube
Image caption Fancy working here? A tube train atop a Victorian warehouse in London

Can a quirky office make you a better worker? Meet the people who do conventional work in unconventional places.

Whether it's the constant babble of voices in your open plan office, the strip-lighting, or the claustrophobia of the battery-cage desk formations.

For a lot of us the workplace is really just not a great place to work.

Technology companies have famously tried to buck this trend, furnishing their employees with all the free food, pool tables and 'music jam' rooms they could possibly want. But if you're not one of those lucky ones (or have had enough of primary colours and bean bags) you might consider something a little more quirky.

Barking mad

Look up.

If you happen to be standing in Hoxton Square in a trendy part of London you'll see the TREExOFFICE.

This urban-treehouse-office is built on stilts around a tree. The pop-up office has eight workstations with power points and wifi available to rent individually, or the structure can be booked as a meeting space.

"It is made of compressed paper with see-through plastic and translucent polycarbonate," says architect Kathryn Timmins. This is good for the environment, but also helps workers feel at one with nature, she explains.

Media captionWATCH: Meet the people who work in a treehouse office

"It's like a desk in a park, a very nice way to work" says regular Wieteke Teppema, a wine merchant.

She uses the treehouse as a base between visiting clients, and even books the space out for wine tastings.

She says she finds it a place of inspiration.

For local entrepreneur Darren Groucutt, who works at a creative agency, it is a tool to inspire others.

"It's got a wow factor," he says. "Our clients wouldn't have dreamed of having a meeting in a treehouse."

One mod con the space has not got is a toilet (but there is an informal arrangement with a local cafe).

Image caption The treehouse is designed to make workers feel part of the natural environment

Law of the Seas

Blue spaces are where New York attorney John Lenoir finds his inspiration.

The retired federal prosecutor has turned his yacht into an office, complete with view of the Manhattan skyline.

"It's a standard office, I have wifi and I can do anything I need to do," he says.

Armed with the internet, he can research and communicate with other lawyers. All part of the "trial prep" he does for the civil rights cases he now specialises in.

Image caption Lawyer John Lenoir keeps his papers ship-shape on board his yacht

The only drawback, he confides, is setting sail.

There is a certain amount of rocking and rolling, he says, and he has learned to stow away carefully all his legal papers so they don't hit the deck -literally.

But this doesn't put him off.

"You are part of nature," says Mr. Lenoir of the boat's appeal.

"It's so amazing to feel part of this whole planet, with the tides and the weather and the wind."

Go with the flow

"Working away from the office makes you more creative and productive," argues Chris Ward.

The self-made public relations entrepreneur became synonymous with the virtues of working out of wifi-enabled coffee shops, thanks to his hit book "Out of Office".

But he too can see the advantages of leaving the coffee shop chain for these special places.

"Working in an extraordinary location can only be truly inspiring," he says.

It is the antithesis of the dull office, where we "make our work last until we're allowed to leave at 6pm."

"Extraordinary locations are more relaxing environments and allow you to get in the flow - that moment when we have our head down, full on working and time flies by."

Take the tube

Perched high above a warehouse in Shoreditch, London, on a disused underground train, Editorial Director Dan Davies at art collective Village Underground, finds he gets his work done despite some challenges.

"You don't feel trapped as you would in an office" he says, dismissing traditional workplaces as "air-conditioned veal-fattening booths".

Image caption The suite of tube train offices in Shoreditch, London opened in 2007

His office is one of a series of refurbished carriages salvaged from a wreckage yard.

They were gutted of their mechanical parts, then hoisted on to the Victorian building by cranes, before a grand opening in 2007. It was part of a project to make affordable working spaces for artists.

The employees may not feel trapped, but they do sometimes feel cold.

"If we have all the heaters on, it eventually gets warm by four in the afternoon," says colleague Ava Szajna-Hopgood.

"You have to dress to go into the office, not for the journey, but for when you get there."

The carriage has no insulation and noise from nearby building works is another problem.

Image caption Though gutted of mechanical parts the refurbished tube carriage contains many original features

You can always stick your headphones on, advises Mr Davies.

Despite these practical issues, both are quick to defend their unusual workspace.

"It's a treat, you're not going to get bored sat in a tube train," says Ms Szanjna-Hopgood, "I make an effort to appreciate it."

"There's no big management in place, no hierarchy, and I think the space has affected that," says Mr Davies.

"We feel like we are part of London and we don't feel constrained or restricted."

Look out for the videos about these workplaces this week on the BBC News Website. If you use an extraordinary workplace and want to share your story, you can contact us here.


Follow Business reporter Dougal Shaw on Twitter.


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