The Bullog – September 2021

Greetings Bullogers!

Why rural Scotland is ideally placed to reinvent the future of work

For much of my adult life, the Scottish and British economies have been heavily dependent on North Sea oil. For the next half century, it needs to be something different.

Thankfully, huge investment is being focused on renewables to wean the UK off its dependency on hydrocarbons. Wind, wave and tidal energy are likely to play a bigger role than solar. But there may be another source of renewable energy that Scotland can tap into and turn into economic advantage. Imagine if we could channel the renewable energy of people towards tackling global challenges like climate change, by reinventing the places in which they work.

Rural Scotland has experienced changing fortunes. In particular, the Island of Bute declined from a thriving seaside town in the 1950s and 1960s to its hotels being sold and repurposed as care homes. As a result, many young people who grew up in the Bute community left the island and headed for the bright lights of cities such as London or beyond—myself included. Ironically, a similar exodus is now happening in city centres where talented individuals are moving out to improve their quality of life.

Now, I firmly believe that the pandemic may turn rural Scotland’s supposed Achilles heel of solitude and isolation into a comparative advantage. Indeed, a recent report by Visit Scotland claimed that 53% of visitors to Scotland in 2020 were motivated by a desire to “get away from it all and have a change of environment.” Clearly, employees want more than a binary choice of work in an office versus working from home.  Might they value the opportunity to sometimes work from a different home?

Change is already underway. During recent trips back home, I’ll often hear a rich variety of accents in the local bars or find myself bumping into interesting artisans, talented artists or craftspeople who have chosen Bute as their base. A vibrant and integrated Syrian refugee community adds to the diversity. No wonder Bute’s property market is booming. 

As the future of work undergoes its metamorphosis, I believe young business professionals could be the next demographic to be drawn to the tranquil, natural beauty of the west coast of Scotland. And if UK based corporates want to attract and retain their expensive talent, the onus will fall on these big businesses to create working environments in which their people can be creative and productive. Right now, employees often feel disengaged and burnt out as the hidden pandemic of mental health creates a crisis of meaning and belonging in the workplace.

Crises can present opportunities as well as threats. As Glasgow hosts the global elite at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, the Craigberoch Business Decelerator a few miles “doon the watter” on Bute is hosting a variety of business professionals from across the world. They will be enjoying a Decelerator Lab—a series of immersive workshops––or prototyping a new model of hybrid working—residencies on Bute that we term “co-being.”  Participants can keep pace with the day job while choosing from a menu of activities—ranging from meditation and yoga through to guided nature walks.

In the debate around work-life balance, the scales could tip in rural Scotland’s favour. We may find the bright lights of London, New York or Edinburgh become slightly dimmer for the next generation of young business professionals. 

Work Life (In)balance
The piece above appeared as an Op-ed in the Scotsman last month and we also enjoyed some coverage in FutureScot and DIGIT too, thanks to the PR skills of my friend Nick Freer.

Clearly not everyone gets this message however.  I read with a mixture of horror and amazement the report about the senior Goldman Sachs Exec, Xavier Rolet, ridiculing the young graduates in New York for begging that their working week be capped at a crazy 80 hours.

“Think yourself lucky to even have a job. In our day we worked 135 hours a week etc etc”. It’s just astounding – that’s a little over 4 hours of sleep a night with every other waking moment spent working.

And what’s been the response from on high within the bank?  Have they decided to overhaul an inhumane and toxic workplace? Or instead they could perform a root and branch culture change across the entire firm?  Nope, not a bit of it. They decided that the best response was to pay their over-worked graduates even more money!  Don’t believe me then read it for yourself – “Goldman Sachs raises banker pay after 95-hour week complaint”.  

Contrast this with a number of companies including LinkedIn giving everyone a week off in an attempt to fend off burnout.  Go figure!

No, I’m clearly not impartial, but from what I’m picking up, far too many people are feeling completely frazzled and are desperate for a fundamental reset of their work life balance.  That’s exactly why we’re going ahead with our scheduled Decelerator Lab (10-13 Sep) and the “Co-being” Residencies (13-17 Sep) in September and again in November. 

I’ll be completely honest, it’s not easy trying to market any in-person event in the face of a global pandemic and widespread corporate travel bans.  Thankfully some people are getting round that by self-funding their own presence and with this in mind, we’re offering the last few places at half price for individuals who are paying their own way. That’s just £725 all in including food and accommodation – what a bargain!

I’m getting really excited about the cast of performers we have joining from across Scotland and beyond including artists, storytellers, musicians and improv experts. It’s going to be a hoot. Check out the agenda here.

Best of the rest……

I’ve spoken in the past about the key role we’re playing supporting the Unusual Pioneers Intrapreneurship programme. Well, Viki Lazar from our Cast led a great online session on Resilience with this cohort of high performers from companies like Unilever and Accenture and helped them better understand how they could deal with the huge pressures of fighting what I call the “corporate immune system”. Feedback was incredibly positive and we’re in talks with a few companies about offering a similar programme in-house.

I’ve been asked to facilitate a session on intrapreneurship at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Sustainable Development Impact Summit on 20th September at 12:15pm UK time.  It’s open to the public and you can register here if interested.

We’ve been in discussions with Raleigh International about getting teams of volunteers to help us develop and improve the land at Craigberoch. They’ve a programme working across a number of locations to help protect and restore the Scottish rainforest which got coverage in The Times.  Ellen Potter and I met with the head of this programme who came to Bute to discuss whether the Craigberoch Woodland adjacent to our site might qualify as “rainforest” and if their volunteers could help with rewilding on our land.

Speaking of the land, while Craigberoch is raising funding for the restoration of the main building, we’ve engaged a landscape architect to develop a master plan for what we do with the ten hectares of land. They paid their second visit and we had an exciting day pouring over topological surveys of the area, contour maps, micro-climate assessments etc all of which reminded me of Mr Iain MacLeod’s Higher Geography class in Rothesay Academy back in the 80s (he is now himself into his 80s and claims to be a regular Bullog reader – I’ll know for sure if he picks up on this name check!).  It was an exciting meeting where we discussed everything from the location of off-grid accommodation pods, through to wood burning hot tubs , saunas and Covid friendly outdoor meeting spaces. Watch this (outdoor) space for more info.

On the personal front…….

When was the last time you cut off from your phone for 24 hours? I mean completely – no email, no WhatsApp, no Facebook, nothing? I went with my friends to stay in a stunning little mountain hut near a Glacier at 2,300m above the Valais in Switzerland and managed a full 30 hours completely unplugged.  I found it both hard and cathartic in equal measures and plan to try to do it more regularly.

Today writing the Bullog from a sunny beach on the Isle of Bute where I have to say, the weather has been exceptional. I drove from Geneva mid August with Penny the Dog as company and will be staying on the island for several weeks throughout our September events.

They say that the journey is just as important as the destination and so I made sure to take in some beautiful places in France “en-route”, including the impressive city of Troyes with its stunning Cathedral and also Reims where I was treated to a lovely lunch in the garden of Delphine Dépy Carron from our Cast.

OK, that’s more than enough for now folks. If you enjoy this monthly ramble then do feel free to suggest others sign up here.  Until next month,


* The Bullog  = Bulloch + BlogMake sense?  Not bulldog, nor is it bulls**t although I’ll let you be the judge of that! It’s a brief synopsis on recent articles, events and opinions from my world and the things that have caught my attention over the past few weeks. 

*Credits to Paul Simpson for his sunset photo*