The way we all work is changing rapidly, and the workplaces of the next generation will reflect these shifts. I am excited by how widely flexible working is being embraced - after all, I have been working flexibly for the past five decades.
There are five main places I have worked day-in, day-out over the years, and you will notice that an office is nowhere to be seen on the list. I’ve never had a proper desk, never worked out of an office and certainly never clocked in. Here are the five places I have worked most creatively.
5. A basement
When I left school to start Student magazine, we needed somewhere to put the publication together. We convinced my friend Jonny Gems’ parents to let us work from the basement of their house in London. All sorts of people were soon coming and going out of the basement, as we scrambled to create a magazine from scratch. It was chaotic and cramped, but we made the most of it and the close proximity made for lots of interesting collaborations. However, we weren’t meant to be working out of it. Inspectors came around one day and we hid all the phones in the cupboards pretending we were just hanging out. We might have got away with it, if the cupboard didn’t start ringing as the inspectors looked around!
4. A crypt
Continuing our subterranean workspace theme, we moved even further underground. As we raced to find somewhere to finish the new issue, a kindly local minister loaned us the space in his church crypt, and it became our second workspace. This was where I got closest to having my own desk; I lifted a slab of rock on top of two coffins and put my papers on top. When I revisited the crypt a couple of years ago, I even found an old flyer for Student and the Student Advisory Centre crumpled in the corner! It was cramped, airless and, yes, a little bit creepy – but we had a blast and got an awful lot done. Nobody wanted to be the last to leave at night, so we all worked fast!
3. A houseboat
As both Virgin and my family grew, we had left the crypt long behind. Virgin had our own offices, but I based myself out of the houseboat in Little Venice – it is still moored on the canal, close to Virgin’s current Battleship offices. I lived, worked and played in the houseboat, conducting meetings while I was babysitting and making sure I was around my kids as much as possible. Some of our happiest days, and greatest business deals, took place on the houseboat.
2. A family home
Eventually we bought a house in Holland Park, and it quickly became the epicentre of the Virgin world. Some of the team would always be sleeping in spare rooms, sofas or even floors, and new companies from Virgin Cola to Virgin Money were incubated in the loft. The door was always open and the house functioned as office and home all at once. When I wanted a break from the house, my favourite restaurant was just around the corner, and whether it was signing a band or sealing a banking deal, we would often do so over some delicious Greek dishes.
1. A hammock
When I bought Necker Island I dreamed of turning it into an ideal hideaway for bands to make great records. However, it turned into something even more exciting – a hub for entrepreneurs, and a home for my family. I am surrounded by the most inspiring setting, and come into contact with all sorts of fascinating entrepreneurs and characters. I can relax and switch off from the world through island walks and sports, and I can engage my imagination through thinking time and making connections. It is the best of all worlds.
Where do you work most creatively?