A while ago, I had the misfortune to be sent to work in Woking. I’d previously spent some time there on a theatre tour, and I’d hated it. The tour had visited some pretty grim places, but Woking was my least favourite of all.
When I’d been there for two weeks, I ended up leaving the country, so I really wasn’t happy about going there 5 days a week for the foreseeable future.
For me, it epitomises small-town modern Britain, identikit shops and no culture.
Maybe I’m being harsh on the place. Woking isn’t really that much worse than any number of towns. There are plenty of places like it, close enough to London that all the life gets sucked out, but far enough that it’s a pain to get there.
It’s almost impossible to navigate the town on foot without passing through the shopping centre - so many pavements that lead to a dead-end, forcing you onto the ring road at short notice.
No wonder Paul Weller was driven to write Town Called Malice. No wonder HG Wells wrote War of the Worlds, where aliens try to destroy the world, starting with Woking.
Large companies often think that they can save money by installing their staff in a big barn in one of these places, but in a job market where skilled workers are in demand, it’s a false economy. Young, ambitious developers don’t want to be stuck in a place like that.
I don’t have stats for it, but our team’s attrition rate definitely decreased when the company moved us into London.
Work environments need to be about more than just work. They need to be about more than just what’s inside the office.