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Changing Spaces Prototyping new working environments and systems

Coffee Shop - Bank

Changing Spaces

Table of Contents Introduction




Top Tips for Remote Workers


Head Space


Work Space


Connect Space


Space Aches






Uscreates Studio

Changing Spaces Introduction

Our mission is to create big, positive social impacts and help others to do so as well. This means we strive to ensure the environment we work in; the way we work; and our people are set up to make huge social impacts possible for those we work with. Early on, we learned that we cannot expect the people we work with to come to us. We have to go out and about, and be with the people and organisations we collaborate with. Our work on social and behaviour change takes us across the country, from kitchen tables to streets to boardrooms. To ensure we are able to make the biggest impact we can, we prototype1 new ideas for working differently to see how they can benefit us and those we work with. Behavioural prototyping is a practice we carry out to inform our behaviour change work. It involves getting people to engage in new behaviours and then reflecting on the experience.

We were not the only ones to do this. Both the government and O2 ran their own remote working experiments in 2012 to see how they could reduce congestion and avoid disruption during the Olympics. O2 Business Director Ben Dowd said that in the future, work will increasingly become something we do, rather than a place we go. In this report, we set out the findings and reflections from our prototype to help others explore this way of working.

“…work will increasingly become something we do, rather than a place we go.”

To find out how to create the best possible working environment, we prototyped what it would be like to work without our office. For a total of four weeks – two in October 2011 and two in February 2012 – we bade farewell to our London Bridge studio. All of us worked distributed across London and the country to try out different ways of working. Our goal was to see what else we can do to create a fantastic and productive working culture – one that supports the aspirations, interests, development and wellbeing of our team, our business vision and our collaborators.


Prototyping is a method used by designers to acquire feedback from users about future designs The Telegraph, ‘Whitehall to practise working from home for Olympics’, olympics/news/9039873/Whitehall-to-practise-working-from-home-for-Olympics.html 3 Mobile News, ‘3,000 O2 staff take part in biggest ever flexible working pilot’, www.mobilenewscwp. 2




‘The HUB’ - Westminster

Changing Spaces Methodology

Team members were provided with a cafĂŠ allowance and distributed working kit. This included a list of good wifi locations and computer programmes to aid collaboration, locate team members and share tips and locations; and a list of potential workspaces. A rough schedule was sketched out to ensure the team had the opportunity to discuss and action work required for the week. This included joint team meetings at a pre-determined location each Monday.

An Uscreates director phoned each team member on a daily basis to discuss the challenges and experiences of the day and capture the findings. The conversations monitored cost, productivity , and practicalities, collected ideas and identified areas of value.



Top Tips for Remote Workers

Clerkenwell Workshops

Changing Spaces Top Tips for Remote Workers

1.Plan Plan your distributed working but expect the unexpected. Ensure you choose venues that you know will have the necessary infrastruture, such as wireless internet, power supply and mobile phone signal. Factor in school holidays – some public spaces become very busy during half term.

2. Make time to get together Make time to get together with your team. Ensure they feel supported and are given the opportunity to share their experiences of remote working.

3. Make the most of technology Sign up to Skype and consider using Foursquare to stay connected with your team. Ensure your have remote access to your company server. Inform people you are expecting calls from that you can be reached on your mobile phone instead. If you want to make it easy for your team to access the internet, considering signing up to a wifi hotspot service or get internet pay-as-you-go dongles.

4. Enjoy the experience! It is likely to reveal some important and useful insights into your current working arrangements and what else can be possible.




‘The HUB’ - Westminster

Changing Spaces Headspace

Happy Workers

Productive Workers

Remote working had clear psychological benefits for the team. A fresh commute to a new location provided the opportunity for a bit of exercise and a change of scenery. Team mates often arrived at chosen work spaces feeling invigorated after a novel journey. It was a pleasant contrast with the regular commute.

Some team mates felt that working in new locations had a positive impact on their productivity. While starting work can take longer as one familiarised oneself with newsurroundings, some reported increased focus in compensation.

Working at new locations also boosted morale. The friendly bustle, bright, airy space and Thames views of the Royal Festival Hall, for example, was a very pleasant environment in which to work. Some team mates were struck by the sense of excitement the locations created. The right locations also provided more opportunities to move around, get a good coffee and get to know a new place. Interestingly, some team members noted that moving to new locations freed them from some of the more negative associations with the office. For example, the feeling of being stressed as a deadline approached could be experienced again when returning to the office. New spaces did not have these associations, which had a positive impact on morale.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re at work.” Inspired Workers Shared spaces can be inspirational in themselves. Being in new surroundings or being surrounded by others working on innovative projects, engendered new perspectives and stimulated creativity.

The lack of some resources normally taken for granted, such as internet, also reduced distractions and created sustained focus on other tasks. However, this was not always the case for team mates who worked from home, where there was often more potential for distraction than at the office.

Confident Workers Remote working can be challenging. Finding spaces with the right infra structure and sufficient noise levels and securing opportunities for team meetings can be more difficult than in the office. However, some team mates experienced a rise in confidence to adapt and meet the challenge. This confidence carried over into other new situations. It also helped to develop abilities such as being able to work without distraction. However, team members preferred to be joined by at least one other team-mate when working in shared or public locations. This was as much to create opportunities for short breaks as it was to discuss ideas and ask work-related questions.

“It feels like it’s becoming more of a possibility” 8


Workspace @

Royal Festival Hall - Southbank


Changing Spaces Workspace

Connecting Remotely

Getting More

Remote working revealed the value of technology, both traditional and that not normally associated with the workplace. Skype became a routine tool, as it enabled ‘face to face’contact between teammates in different locations. The smartphone application Foursquare was useful for keeping track of team members and feeling connected to the wider team. It was also a great way of sharing experiences of working at different locations and inspiring team members to join. A photo taken by a team member of an attractive location was often a good incentive for others to meet there.

Many public spaces are equipped with resources that most offices lack. The Hub, Westminster, for example - a membership based shared workspace - has a business resource library, a range of unusual workspaces, and a programme of events and seminars. The Wellcome collection has a library available to the public, as well as interesting exhibitions.

Getting Organised

Shared spaces had a variety of features, some of could be perceived as weaknesses. However, the team found that hindrances could be turned into help if some pragmatism was used. A poor internet connection enabled periods of sustained focus. This meant that tasks not requiring online resources were completed more quickly than in the regular office environment. Similarly, gaining the instant ideas of colleagues was not always possible, as it is in the office. However, the coherent plans for maximising colleagues’input this required meant colleagues’ time was often used more effectively.

Productive distributed working required forward planning. Ensuring the right materials, infrastructure and environment were in place meant that team members often started the working day with every thing needed for the day’s work close at hand.

Getting Around As well as providing psychological benefits, journeys to new work spaces provided practical gains. For example, one team member was able secure a seat on the train journey home. This enabled her to use her return journey home to do further work, as well as enjoy her journey.

The Right Space For The Right Job

Finally, being out of the office created more opportunities for private, faceto - face conversations with other team members. The hubbub of public places created a feeling of anonymity in which pairs or small groups could talk frankly.



Connect Space

Duke Cafe - East London

Changing Spaces Connect Space Meet Colleagues

Meet Collaborators

Overall, working like this had a positive impact on team working. Team mates were reminded of their colleagues’ value, realising how welcome the arrival of a familiar face in an unfamiliar setting could be. Similarly, team mates were comforted by being able to track the wider team’s movements on Foursquare.

Naturally, being ‘out and about’ increases the chance of meeting new and existing collaborators. This was particularly true during the 2012 prototype, when Uscreates spent a number of days at The Hub in Westminster. This shared studio is designed to meet the needs of and encourage startups and social entrepreneurs. As well as connecting with a range of exciting and innovative organisations and individuals, the space provided a great environment in which to catch up with existing collaborators.

The excitement of being in new places also had a positive effect. Team members felt more stimulated and inspired to work together on new challenges. Working together could become a more enjoyable experience.

Meet Clients The team found that our ability to communicate and engage our clients was largely unaffected. Uscreates’ normal way of working involves spending a lot of time travelling to and meeting with clients, with communications conducted via email and telephone. While noise and internet connectivity had the potential to become issues, client working was very much ‘business as usual’. By forwarding calls from the main office telephone to a team member’s mobile, clients’ were not impeded from reaching the team. One some occasions, client communications were even made easier for example, by simply working directly in clients’ offices.

Uscreates’ empty office also created an opportunity to connect with and support new projects. During the 2012 prototype, Uscreates gave other start-ups the chance to bid to use our office while we were away. Several organisations came forward and two were selected to spend a week each making the most of our facilities.

Meet Loved Ones The chance to meet loved ones working near shared spaces for lunch or a post-work drink was a rare treat for some team mates.

“Client working was very much business as usual”



Space Aches

Clerkenwell Workshops

Changing Spaces Space Aches Stuff


Not having a base with storage meant that some team mates had to carry around more items and materials than usual. Hard copy documents could not be filed until the return to the office, creating a feeling of work not quite being finished a more enjoyable experience.

Some team mates spent more on lunch than usual due to a lack of kitchen facilities in work spaces.

Currents and Waves Some public spaces required time to be spent searching for power supplies, sufficient wireless internet signal and even mobile phone signal. This meant time could be wasted. Even when power supplies were found, they weren’t always sufficient, requiring team mates to monitor their laptop power levels and rotate use of sockets.

“This meant time could be wasted”

Stress While going to new spaces freed some team mates from negative associations of the office, it could also mean entering a negative atmosphere. On one occasion, the evident stress of another team using a shared space created tension in the wider environment.

Equipment Not having access to a printer, scanners, camera or projector when needed meant that team members had to invest time outsourcing, locating new facilities, or heading back to the office to pick up equipment.

Chatter Background noise was an issue in some spaces, making it difficult to concentrate. One team mate was concerned that a telephone conversation with a client was affected negatively.




Uscreates Studio

Changing Spaces Conclusion

What impact has distributed working had on our thinking, morale, ideas and creativity? The short answer is a lot. From feeling inspired, productive and confident to simply enjoying the job more, the benefits were great. Initiating a change in working patterns creates value and new understanding about work methods. Importantly, it showed us that we can and do spend real time with the individuals and communities we are working with to effect change. Most of all, it gave us an appreciation of what we had, who we worked with and what we could do.

Great value came from:

Inspiration gathered from new and different surroundings, people and perspectives.

Understanding of our own working patterns and systems and why we do what we do. Shedding light on the systems we use that have absolute value and necessity, and those we use simply because of routine or tradition.

Different spaces for different tasks and people – there are no one size fits all work environments. Whether we work distributed or not, we can integrate this learning into our the design of our work environment and processes.


Studio 4.2.2 The Leathermarket, 11-13 Weston Street, London Bridge, London. SE1 3ER +44 (0) 2031426686 @uscreates

Uscreates - Changing Spaces  

A report put together following the prototyping of remote working, by the Uscreates team. Contains useful insights and tips on how to make y...

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