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Finding the tipping point: work to live or live to work?

A thought-piece by Allied London’s James Sidlow on the potential that live-work spaces can offer.

James Sidlow - bw

The age-old proverb says: “never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”. And the thin line between personal and work life is blurring. How, where and when we work is changing and it can feel like there is no escape. We are constantly ‘plugged in’ – often with our work device in one hand and our Netflix in the other.

But being ready to work at all hours of the day (we are slowly coming to realise) can be damaging, and while work is extremely important, rewarding and a high priority for many, our personal life is equally so. Attitudes are shifting; economist equations and financial reports are making way for life coaches, yoga mats, puppy clubs and beer Fridays, all in an attempt to increase our workplace productivity.

But is your productivity increased by removing the red tape and distancing the workplace from a traditional corporate situation? It should be a chance to free your mind, to be creative and embrace the “I don’t know when I’m working or not.” Right?

Photo of someone working from their mobile phone

Or is the reality that you are sat in that same café on your day off, head in hands continuing to work whilst the 9-5’ivers are living up their freedom from the working week? They have clocked off, forgotten about it till Monday, but you never switch off! Is the reason your company is offering you so many in-house “amenities” only to keep you at the office longer?

I’d argue it’s time to take control. And to do this, we need spaces that allow our work and life to collide effectively to maximise our productivity, wellbeing and most importantly, happiness. The boundaries are already so murky that maybe it’s time to embrace spaces that enable us to see work and life as complementary rather than in constant juxtaposition. And live-work units that are specifically designed and well-thought out could be the answer.

Let’s take Allied London’s vision for the workspace at the Manchester Goods Yard, at the heart of Enterprise City as an example. We envisage it will be the city’s most flexible workspace building, suitable for start-ups and small businesses, all the way up to corporate organisations. The ultimate flexibility of workspaces is reflected in the building design itself where small studio suites, co-working spaces, and large floorplates will combine and will be topped off by our plans for 14 live-work units at roof level.

So, you’re either wondering what “live-work” means or are shuddering at the thought of the first generation live/work units that originated in Hackney in the ’90s, where regeneration was encouraged through the re-use of vacant poor quality industrial spaces. Notwithstanding Manchester’s indifferent attempts; low-cost apartment blocks, converted garages and do-it-yourself warehouses.

Instead, look across the Atlantic for live-work inspiration and you’ll find they have most definitely ‘nailed it’. As the New York Times recently put it: “Live/work has become truly trendy, you can find live-work spaces in TriBeCa, SoHo, North Gramercy, Flatiron, Chelsea, the Meat Market area, the Financial District, across the river in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn—anywhere in New York City where art collectors, bankers, designers, stockbrokers and hip upper-middle-class parents might consider living in enormous sheetrocked spaces.” It has certainly become a highly-desirable lifestyle choice with the most attractive live-work units exchanging hands for over $1 million. It’s becoming a very good investment for occupiers and developers alike and seemingly, New Yorkers just can’t get enough.

So what is our vision? Well thought-out design-led live-work units with double height spaces and mezzanine levels to facilitate a work/live arrangement; separating the living quarters from the workspace at the lower level. Units that are intended as loft apartments with a mezzanine deck to create generous volumes and light-filled interiors. Units benefiting from private external terraces on the outer edge of the building and stunning views across Enterprise City, while having shared external garden decks. Residential elements in our units will be designed to go above and beyond national residential standards, with expansive living areas, luxurious interiors and island kitchens. Truly bespoke and raising the bar, specification and design that is both innovative and cutting-edge.

Live-work spaces offer an alternative solution, both for those who are finding it hard to figure out where work ends and where life begins, and for those looking to address the complex pursuit of finding the perfect balance between the two.

For more information about Manchester Goods Yard, visit the St. John’s website

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