Working from home sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s not without its challenges. Apart from constant distractions Mrs Romance and I both struggle with, things like meetings, meals, space and general convenience make having a home office tricky. But we’ve got a couple of tricks that really help.
Brought to you by MLC Centre, Sydney.
Having a flexible work environment is not only becoming more and more popular, it’s also becoming more commonplace. But finding somewhere good to call your office isn’t as easy as you might think.
Cafés can get so busy that the guilty feeling you’re taking up a table with your ‘office’ can be quite distracting. Libraries really aren’t the place for Skype meetings or conference calls. Wifi in parks or at the beach never comes up to expectations. And hotdesking has a host of issues too.
So when we’re looking for somewhere to work away from our home office, Mrs Romance and I like to head into the city in search of that perfect place to get some work done.
It goes without say that there are more options for a mobile office in the city, but narrowing down a great work spot is still hard.
Here’s what we’ve found we need to get a solid day’s work done. As a reference point, we’ve used the newly renovated MLC Centre in Sydney as our case study to give you an example.
Our office away from home – MLC Centre, Sydney
We can’t live or work without the internet, so this has to be our number one priority.
One of the few places in Sydney, the MLC Centre food court offers free – and fast – wifi. You just need to sign up and you’re in.
And just as the proverb says: ‘Home is where the wifi connects automatically’, the wifi here remembers your device the next time you’re in range. Awesome.
Unless you’re a professional contortionist, working in a small box isn’t going to make your life great. Look for somewhere with high ceilings, natural light and plenty of room to move about in when you feel like stretching your legs.
I’m not sure if it’s just a trick of the eye, but the refurb inside the MLC Centre seems to have made the food court a lot more spacious. Definitely a pat on the back for old family friends of ours who own the design company Luchetti Krelle responsible for the revamp.
There’s a great range of seating here with ample people-watching opportunities when it’s time for a break away from the screen.
There’s no point calling where you work a functioning office if you don’t have somewhere to meet with clients or colleagues. You need a proper table, access to coffee and refreshments, and not a park bench. Unless you’re a spy.
Depending on what you’re looking for in a meeting space, the food court seating in the MLC Centre is comfortable enough. But if you’re after something with a bit more of a café feel or a more professional setting, upstairs there are a few options.
Café Paradiso, Bar Fino, Ambar and Café Courtyard have table service and a la carte food choices. These venues are also great if you’re looking for something stronger than a smoothie or a cappuccino as they’re fully licensed.
If Mrs Romance and I are to work together anywhere, there must be a food source within easy reach. Not only does our work output drop without regular nutrition, there’s a good chance our partnership will become a solo venture quickly when hangry sets in!
This is really what the MLC Centre’s about. There’s so much to eat here it’s kind of confronting at first. There are around 30 different places to choose from and they all have something different to tempt you with.
From sushi to salads, from Vietnamese pho to Turkish gozleme, from French crepes to Mexican burritos – it’s all here.
There’s also news of Neil Perry’s Burger Project moving in soon too – a serious string to MLC’s bow.
Recently, Mrs Romance and I had lunch and our weekly meeting here, and were very impressed.
Mrs Romance is into her green smoothies at the moment and enjoyed Top Juice’s efforts. My coffee from Ccino’s Café was great – though with so many vendors here selling joe, I’d like to try a few others.
For lunch we shared some dumplings from Lok Lok Dumpling Bar, which I must say were amazing – especially the pork ones. The laksa they do here looks enticing too.
Mrs Romance decided to head for the Thr1ve counter, which serves up enormous bowls of wholefood meals. They also have an on-site wood smoker for the pulled pork and beef they serve. Smells amazing. The Get Mighty Mrs R brought back (pulled smoked beef, kaleslaw, sweet potato mash and not-naughty ranch sauce) forced me to step up.
I paid a visit to the Schnitz, which serves handmade and pan-cooked schnitzels, for a Si Señor wrap meal. It was spicy, it was filling, it was exactly what I wanted – and the chips were awesome.
A bit like some of the popular Mexican restaurants, a Schnitz you choose the way you want your meal – the bread, the meat, the style and the other fillings – and they make each one while you wait.
There’s no point in trying to work somewhere that’s got a weird vibe to it or that feels cramped. You need space for your mind to work. If there’s a bit of greenery, all the better.
As I mentioned before, the new layout of this space makes it a much easier place to spend more time in. Before the refurb, I remember just running in, choosing my lunch and running out again, but now you kind of feel more inclined to hang out.
And that’s perfect for a mobile office location.
Apart from wifi, the one thing we look for in a mobile office is convenience. It’s got to be close to everywhere and have everything close to you.
This food court’s about as central to the city as you can hope for. We walked up from Darling Harbour and it only took us about 10 minutes. Otherwise public transport loves this part of town and if you’ve got meetings elsewhere in the city, you’ll be able to get there quickly and easily from here.
There’s set to be an IGA supermarket right in MLC’s food court area, which will make this spot even more convenient. I love the idea of being able to pick up a snack or some easy groceries on my way home from ‘the office’!
Plus you’re on the doorstep of the CBD’s burgeoning nightlife scene if you feel like a quick after-work chardie!
Distractions from work aren’t always a bad thing. If you’re into shopping – a bit of retail therapy can be just the thing.
When work starts to get too much, Mrs Romance loves a bit of a shop. She even likes to get to the airport earlier than anyone I know just so she can check out the sales.
The retail opportunity (and the vast array of food on hand) is the only danger with working too long at the MLC Centre. With some 16 top-end labels selling their wares, it might be an idea to leave the credit card at home!
But if you’re happy just to browse – or are unassailably rich – there’s some amazing high fashion to be explored here.
So what are the downsides to using the MLC Centre as a mobile office?
With every office space, there are pros and cons. It’s just something you have to weigh up.
- The MLC Centre is quite confusing to navigate. There are a million entrances, and escalators and stairs tucked away all over the place. Mysteriously, the main food court you access from street level is on Level 6…
- The food court itself does get quite busy at lunchtime, so you need to get there before 12pm to score your favourite table. However, there’s so much seating here, you’ll always find a spot. And with the lunchtime city crowd, seat turnover is very high.
- Finding a power supply could be tricky. With aesthetics heavily at play with the design of the MLC’s new look, we couldn’t spot any power points within easy reach. It’s worth coming with a full battery if you want to work here for any length of time.
The $11 million refit that’s given the MLC Centre its new look has really improved the space and the experience.
It’s something that this part of town has been looking for for a while. And it’s great to see this iconic building, which has been around for almost 40 years, be given a revival.
Quick fact: did you know the MLC Centre tower was the tallest building in Sydney until 1992 when the Chifley Tower was finished. Chifley Tower is still Sydney’s tallest building.
MLC Centre Food Court
19 Martin Place
Where do you go if you want to work mobile? What does your dream office look like? Tell us in the comments!