Our editor in chief asks: as well as writing about those people who are doing things differently, should we be trying to live by our quality-of-life mantra too?
This time last year we posed the question: “So What Do You Want to Do?” on our September 2016 cover. With a jauntily dressed man looking somewhere between puzzled and at peace posed beside the coverline, the query reflected not just the mood of Europeans still coming to grips with the Brexit vote but also the feeling that comes when you’ve had a few weeks off to consider how you want to work, where you’d like to work and perhaps who you’d like to work for – or who’d you like working for you.
You’ll no doubt have noticed that we’ve spent the better part of the past year paying particular attention to the topic of relocation, workplace rethinks and setting out on your own. Whether it’s been in the magazine’s pages, over the airwaves on Monocle 24 or via our films, we’ve sought to become a source for smart stories about people who are doing it differently and also being proactive rather than waiting to see what happens. For readers in our two biggest markets (the US and UK, respectively), it’s been a mixed picture. While we haven’t seen the massive flight of Americans to Vancouver or Berlin as was threatened, we have definitely seen a surge of Britons and UK residents applying for EU passports and jobs in Lisbon, Milan and Munich.
During production for this issue we hosted a small cocktail party to mark the official start of the summer break and formally announce the launch of our seasonal newspaper project (The Monocle Summer Weekly hit newsstands on 10 August – you can find it on better newsstands across Europe and at monocle.com). As guests and staff enjoyed the drinks on the terrace, a few of us enjoyed a high-level economic briefing from one of the most senior players in the UK government. The headline: if you’re hoping there’s a plan, there isn’t one. If you think there’s a more dynamic leader waiting in the wings, keep dreaming. At this point our discussion moved across the Channel to Emmanuel Macron, the renewed energy in France and the need for someone in the private sector, with proper business leadership experience and success, to step in and lift the national mood in the UK.
In our own boardroom we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the relevance of London as an English-language media hub, the future scale of our business and how we might manage various elements of the monocle brand. Could we run joint hubs with editorial staff sitting in London and business affairs somewhere else? And if so, where is that somewhere else? Does it have to be Berlin? Or should it be in a better-connected city that has the advantage of direct flights but perhaps not quite the dynamism that comes with lower rents and a younger workforce? Or could we really live by our quality-of-life mantra and offer to relocate everyone to a smaller city that provided decent connectivity in exchange for an exceptional standard of living that would include excellent housing stock, good state schools, rolling meadows a cycle ride away, a vibrant village-like city centre and an agreeable climate?
In fact, our business team commissioned a first study on this very topic in their look at liveable third-tier cities, offering up a few starters for those who might be looking for a new Asian, Mediterranean or North Atlantic live-work base. If you happened to be at our Quality of Life Conference and met the mayor of Reykjavík you’ll know that the city has a very sunny, lively side even if the winds are howling and the cloud base is hovering at 100 metres.
While I’ve been out and about looking at Munich v Berlin or Lisbon as a possible site for a new bureau and whether it’s San Francisco or Los Angeles for the US West Coast, we’ve also been updating our Zürich bureau to handle more staff rotations, mini-summits and special projects. For the moment we’re staying where we are but if anyone knows of a nice little street with a few empty shops that could work well for us in terms of housing an office, a café, a Monocle Shop and even an outlet for our menswear sibling Trunk then do keep us in mind. You’ll find our details at the end of this note.
As we shift into full autumn mode (even though this is being typed on the terrace of a nice little hotel in Forte dei Marmi under full sunshine and in shorts), we’re putting the finishing touches on our guides to Kyoto, San Francisco and Milan, and also plotting the next round of bigger books that should be in store for late winter. On the retail and f&b front we have a new little outlet at The Lovelace hotel in Munich and in the coming weeks we’ll be announcing a little North American tour that will combine some live-radio events and mini conferences as well as book signings and pop-up opportunities.
If you’ve had any thoughts or reflections from the sunlounger that you’d like to send our way then please do so: we’re always up for tips and collaboration ideas. Wishing you a good end of summer and prosperous autumn (or springtime if you’re south of the equator). You’ll find me at email@example.com.