We were lucky to host Zander Whitehurst and his wife Lucy at The Orangery last week.
Zander is the solo founder of Memorisely - a remote UX/UI bootcamp that brings 10 designers together from anywhere in the world to learn the latest remote workflows and tools. Their mission is to make learning UX/UI accessible and affordable for all.
Our CEO Aled Maclean-Jones sat down with Zander to reflect on his Ashore stay and his remote working lifestyle.
I've worked remotely for five years now; my wife and I have had the opportunity to go all around the world to amazing places, but one of the challenges we face is being productive on the go. We'll go to a holiday rental and the wifi will be unreliable, or one of us will be working from the kitchen counter, or a sofa.
But my week at Ashore has been the polar opposite - I've been hyper-productive!
That's the whole idea originally behind Ashore - my wife and I both loved exploring the UK but needed to always be "on" for work.
So every chance we had to go somewhere new, we'd combine it with work - have our cake and eat it, if you will - and that often meant tethering off iPhones or working off kitchen tables.
I found it pretty frustrating because I foten found I could get my best ideas when I was thinking about work somewhere else because work didn't feel like work.
I could probably list off countless moments where I've been very stressed, struggling with spotty wifi, and trying to present a live Memorisely class!
Ashore is so powerful for people who want to be able to escape, and not necessarily use up all their annual leave every time they explore somewhere new. What's in the standard setup for each location?
The inspiration for us was the Hilton hotels of the 1950s - when they started to expand internationally, they'd find unique locations but there's always be air conditioning and a TV.
Nowadays, we want that unique space, but having a standardised desk setup is key to that next level of productivity.
So an Ashore home has a Herman Miller chair, an Apple Studio Display or a similar monitor, and all the accessories you need to plug in, as well as a lovely desk made from sustainable wood by our friends at Pegg Furniture.
The ultimate goal is for us is that all you need to bring is your laptop to get your work done.
When we arrived on Monday evening, I was hosting a class between 5.30-7pm, and being able to jump into that with minimal setup and fuss was amazing. There's a lot to be said about avoiding that stressed, crouched over the kitchen table experience.
Having a dedicated workspace really felt like a home away from home.
I wish we could have stayed for longer, because of previous experiences combining work and travel on a workation just haven't been as comfortable as our Ashore stay.
Yes - it can be so hard to make the space to go somewhere new and concentrate on needle-moving work.
Ultimately the science is clear: if you can disrupt, change your routine, change your location, it creates measurably boosts in your creativity.
If you go away, and the experience isn't great, then you are turning what should be a positive into a negative.
That's what draws in Ashore's audience - we're fortunate to have a great community of people who are working on something big when they're staying at Ashore. We've had guests who stay to finish their dissertation, a team figuring out annual planning after finishing a round of fundraising, or even writing a book.
I think one of the big trends we see with our users is post-pandemic, people are looking for a slightly different way of linking their work to the way they live.
Previously it was only the most senior people on a team who could do that - now it's something everyone can do.
What were you working on when you were staying at The Orangery?
A few things! First, I was teaching - I had three classes to reach, and when you're teaching 24 people in a live class, you really need that reliable wifi and setup.
I was also working on our authentication flow for Memorisely, so really focused on product development. It's working for desktop, tablet and mobile now!
I was recording a lot of content and reels to share with our community too.
The key for me was being able to do all of that while taking time out to explore Devon. At home I probably would have achieved the same amount of work, but being able to do that while taking walks along the beach and going surfing has really helped my productivity and reduced my stress. I was really impressed by how it was possible all at once.
One of the interesting findings from some of the scientific studies on the power of a new place is the creative afterburn you get after disrupting your routine. I think it lasts for about three weeks - I'd be interested to hear if you feel that too in the coming weeks.
A great concept could be members and companies booking Ashore stays once a quarter and establishing an Ashore "disruption" cadence.
Yes, most companies we speak to are finding that each place their employees are across the year has a purpose.
So, you have the office for collaborating with others, your home for day-to-day work and focused time, and then you're on holiday to switch off. The fourth kind of work is Ashore - for those three weeks of a year you can focus on big needle-moving work. We see a surge in bookings at the beginning of each quarter, for example.
Being able to bake that into how your organisation is structured is such a powerful thing; in the world of automation and AI, your talent and creativity is your company's competitive advantage.
Well - I had an amazing stay; congratulations on setting it up. I'm a huge fan! It's been great being an Ashorean...or an Ashorer?
We'll have to workshop it I think - I like Ashorer!