Q&A with Make.Work.Space Founder, Walter Craven

Walter Craven, Founder of Make.Work.Space has conceived, and along with his highly experienced team, designed and launched a Micro-Office, for the new way to work today. In this interview, we ask Walter about his life and the ideas and inspirations that lead to the development of the Micro-Office.  

The workplace as we see it today has changed tremendously in particular over the past couple of years. How do you see that it’s changed for employees for example?

Everything has changed. It would be easier to answer questions revolving around what has stayed the same. I think what we’ve found is that there are so many different, new ways of working and we have successfully worked from pretty much anywhere. What we haven’t yet done is figure out a way to fully accommodate each worker as well as the intricacies of particular types of working, especially certain workers’ behaviours and what they now need to be successful in their work.  As businesses and employers, we’ve formally painted with broad brushes for years using a one-size-fits-all approach and now it’s time to start really going into detail.  Some of us, myself included, needed a bit more than what was offered before, not only at home or the office but anywhere I chose to work. I need a bit more quiet; I need much less distraction. I need the ability to just simply “be”. Where previously we were just throwing people onto an open floor plan, and so even if you didn’t get to deeply know the person that’s sitting across from or beside you, you certainly knew what they were talking about each day. You knew what they were thinking because you overheard every conversation they had. They also heard yours. You know the foods they ate, you probably even knew about their family, but you didn’t really know them. It was, at times, interesting getting to know people in that way, when we all made an equal effort to do so, but you know honestly, I still needed my own space, an away place, a private space and that is something many of us couldn’t and still can’t find.

So, are you saying that the open plan office with everybody crowded around long desks is not the way that people wish to work? 

Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I’m saying that worked for a now long past corporate culture, and it worked for the furniture manufacturers that loved to make 500 of the same table that looked the same together, and you could move furniture around quickly in an effort to support low cost overheads; that’s all good for the bottom line but it’s not good for most employees. I’m going to say all employees need private time in a private space, whether that be in the workplace, at home or in public. They need a space to checkout of office and group conversations and the more room we give people, and it’s not necessarily a broad physical room it’s a focus and wellbeing room, a space and place to reflect, to concentrate, the better quality the work will be and the happier the employee.  Less stress, less anxiety, less reliance on the NHS to treat mental health issues, less stress on the physical spaces that we currently inhabit, both at home and at work, less missed work days, etc. It’s just a win-win for everyone, not only the employer but the employee. I relish my time alone, my quiet time, because as we all know it is a loud and fast world we live in and if I can interject even small amount of purposeful, focused time into my busy schedule, time that is just about me and my needs, time to allow me to think, to catch up, I feel more complete, more balanced; I feel on top of my game.


What do you think needs to happen now and why?

I think we need to offer people choices.  We’re getting somewhere with a few of the products that are out there now, but they don’t quite deliver what I think is ultimately needed, and that’s the personal touch. I may wish to be alone for much more than 15 minutes, not just for a phone call but more than an hour and not just for a group of Zoom or team meetings –  there really aren’t enough of those spaces that feel appropriate for the long haul. I feel like we need a lot more longer term privacy and part of the thinking behind our Micro-Office was giving people this experience to be by themselves in a supportive, ergonomic, protected environment where they can feel safe and where they feel enclosed in a comfortable, positive way. You’re still connected visually to the outside world but protected within the enclosure so that is a superior position to be in order to perform the important work that you need to do. 

When you’re looking to find your own space what are the things that you consider are important for you personally?

Comfort is definitely important. I do like to ease into my work. Many years ago, I would just wake up and immediately run out the door, jump in my vehicle and go to the office and then just run all day, go to bed, and repeat each day. Now it’s a bit more considered.  As I’ve gotten older, I like to take a bit more time to plan each day, so what that means for me is that once I enter my office I like to settle in and become focused. In a loud or noisy environment like in a cafe or on a bus or train or even in a coworking space, I’ve fallen short each time. I’m just completely distracted; I’m unable to concentrate and it all just feels messy and rushed.  So being in a Micro-Office allows me to collect myself, to focus in a way that I generally don’t anywhere else. So, it’s a bit selfish but why shouldn’t it be? I deserve to have the space I need to do the best work I can and so do you.

Do you feel when you’re sitting in the Micro-Office that it’s personal to you? 

Well, we’re here in one so it definitely feels personal enough. I have some portable work tools that have meaning for me, which I carry with me daily. Where I place them and where I use them becomes my personal workspace. Like the old saying, where you lay your hat is your home.  

What is the market sector currently doing to address the new way that we work today?

The market is doing everything and anything it can, and what that means is businesses are now allowing employees to be present and working on certain days within the office or at home. They’re granting those who want to work at home for 2-3 days a week a stipend to buy – hopefully – some proper ergonomic furniture, potentially a new chair or maybe a new computer. So, they’re trying hard and hats off to them. In the office they’re trying to create more pods and more phone booths and more breakout spaces. They’re trying to essentially address what we all know is this need for a new way of working, and the new way of working means it’s neither always in the office or always at home, it’s actually about work being done anywhere and everywhere. But what they’re not providing is the space for a longer journey, a longer thought process, a positioning for deeper thought and deeper work. Most of what we see now is literally a phone box. Some companies wear that offering as a badge of honour, of progress. It is only ever going to be a phone box. Certainly you can have a phone call and you can stand up and have your Zoom meeting. Some are wonderfully designed and well-produced but they are not an office nor are they in any sense a private space. They’re not a place to do the deeper thinking or more meaningful work most of us need to do. They’re for the quick in and out but they’re not for the long haul. If we were to think about this in terms of athletics, these phone and meeting booths are the sprinters and our Micro-Office are the marathon runners; they’re the fast food and we are a sit-down dinner. So, if you’re looking for something where you can have a thoughtful long, deep work session, those aren’t the places for you. If I’m reading this right, we’re still suffering from a growing attention deficit, we are suffering from lack of focus from all kinds of stress, increased work pressures, performance anxiety. I mean it’s just stacking up.  So, what can we do?  Let’s offer working people a private space to call their own or at least an opportunity for several hours during the day to occupy space which makes them feel and act that way. Let’s lower the blood pressure, let’s get the performance up by not cracking a whip, but by giving them something special. It’s got to be a bit more bespoke, a bit more special, a bit more tailored to the individual. The Micro-Office was centred around how people work, with the interior working space in mind, so it’s thinking about these growing problems from the user’s perspective.

You’ve said that you could see the Micro-Office moving in public spaces. Can you give me an illustration?

I can see them literally everywhere. I can see them at the train station, upon leaving my office there have been several times where I needed to make a call or send an important email. It is those activities and many more which are enabled in public settings within a Micro-Office. Most times I don’t want anybody to overhear what I’m saying. I want to get done working as quickly as possible. I can see these Micro-Offices in public places, in the lobbies of hotels, in libraries, in airports. We certainly all need the use of them. We have started creating an app where one can locate these Micro-Offices and their proximity to your current or future locations. They can tell you if they are in use or if they are available to rent. You will be charged based upon time used. It’s similar to ZipCar, you have a frequent need for something you don’t require use of all the time but is always there when you need it. Say you fly from JFK to Heathrow, and you must make an important phone call or participate in the ever more frequent virtual group meeting or check in with your client, your family or just sit down and reflect for 30 minutes before your train arrives. Just find your Micro-Office, book it, engage and get your work done!

In corporate work culture starting back in the 40s in the 50s, when you came home to your family and you said “I’ve got my own office,” especially after sharing a working space with many people, that was something important. The private office was earned. It was an acknowledgment of the important work you’ve accomplished and it showed your value to the firm. Even more impressive was the “I got a corner office with a view”! You have now arrived. What we’re doing is we’re giving you access to the corner office with a view, at nowhere near the commitment or cost. We understand you are important and the work you’re doing deserves recognition. No need to work 10 years on the floor to get the office you need and deserve. You can have it now, because you need it now. You’ve got access to the crème de la crème on your mobile phone app. Or your boss buys you one for home because that’s where you prefer to work most days. We’re bringing back the private work space without the strings attached.

Walter, you have said that you want to make a change as someone who cares. Tell me more about that.

I don’t want to fill the world with another useless object or another nutty invention that maybe does one tenth of what it could or should do. I want to positively contribute not only to a sense of what works for people’s wellbeing, but my family’s wellbeing, that of my friends, the wider community and the earth as a whole. I’ve learned in my life that that we’re stronger by being connected to each other through shared experience, and so if I can help even in the slightest way to foster connections through shared experiences, but especially to allow one to better connect to oneself, I think that’s a very good thing to aspire to, and that means the work that I’ve done has meaning, it has purpose and has legacy. It will make people happier; it’ll make work and life better. This may not be a silver bullet, but it’s getting close to being the best that I can do and the best solution that is out there now and this will certainly evolve over time for the betterment of all. It’s a sincere attempt at solving a huge problem.

3 exterior views of pods

What drove you initially, how did the idea of the Micro-Office come up in the first place, what was happening at the time?

We were all locked down and there was just so much noise and distraction at home, not only in my home but in every house around the world; then when lockdown ended we all said – what are we going to do now –  how are we going to get people back to work? It was just a planning chaos and if it wasn’t chaos, it certainly was working on sowing confusion behind the scenes. I started breaking it down and started thinking about “how do I feel, what could help me?” I started thinking all the way back to the beginnings of my interest in spaces. Ever since I was young boy, I treasured small spaces and this love or affinity and recognition and desire for small spaces followed me into adulthood, so I said to myself whilst working at my desk at home, “I’m going to give this a shot, I’m going to create something that feel like my childhood, a precious small enclosure”. I ordered some large card stock online. I started cutting it up and created this prototype which was based on several dozen sketches I had done, and tons of research on the human need for security and associated feelings of wellbeing, what that means and how space can enhance or support those feelings. I went to work at creating a physical manifestation of everything I’ve studied and read surrounding supportive space and small enclosures.

Walter, you studied architecture initially at the Rhode Island School of Design, how much would you say that architecture has played in creating Micro-Office?

I’d like to build on that question, it’s not only architecture but I studied sculpture. The reason I switched out of architecture was because of scale, or at least my idea of what scale was to me at the time. I was intrigued by this idea of the sculptor and the relationship of art in human scale, and the viewer of the art being a singular person with the ability to easily position oneself around that art. Architecture was for me just a very different scale. It was also a much longer timeline attributed to it and I’m fine with long timelines, but architecture just for me at the time felt just a bit too big and impersonal. I know that the practice of architecture has gone through quite a transformation over recent years and it is becoming more personal, more responsive to people’s and environmental needs and I love that. It’s come a long way. If I was a bit younger maybe I would go back and get an architecture degree. The scale of the Micro-Office as a singular element feels small and compact but as an idea for global use and accessibility, its scale is impressive. So yes, architecture influenced the Micro-Office. I think from a formulaic standpoint, meaning that it had to be an enclosure, needed to be weatherproof, needed access to natural light, it works as a small architectural element. But from a design standpoint, it was completely influenced by a love of sculpture. 

The footprint of the Micro-Office is just over 2 metres and it’s about 2 metres high. Because of its angular, tectonic nature, depending on your viewpoint, it’s difficult to see where it starts and ends. It offers some surprising views as you walk around it. It has a unique faceted exterior skeleton made up of multiple panels which have multiple angles, and it utilises many different materials; glass, steel, and wood and metallised panels for the outside. It has an architectural feeling to it absolutely. However, I keep going back to sculpture, the edges to me are alive, it’s very playful in many ways. There’s a sculptor that we really like called Arik Levy, and he creates faceted sculptures like this that are beautiful. I think that his language and our language, while not the same, are quite similar. There are a lot of these shapes in nature from honeycombs within beehives to other natural forms like crystallised snowflakes and we are referencing a lot of those shapes found in nature. It’s where a bit of the art and sculpture comes in.

Norton Factory Studios which was founded by Walter in the San Fransisco Bay area


Before you embarked on the journey of creating the Micro-Office, what were you doing? 

I was designing and building high-end modern furniture. I then built a large factory to build that furniture. Then people asked me to design and make furniture for them, and then design office space, etc, so the company and the factory grew. I then formed a company to buy real-estate to satisfy the spatial requirements of all these businesses. I was running a design business; I was running a manufacturing business that was running a real estate development business. On top of that, one of the buildings I bought had more space than I then needed, and it was a beautiful bold factory sawtooth building, with glass windows on one side, vertical panels on the other side and a sloping roof on the other. It ran north to south, so it had some amazing continuous light, so I created a premier space for an artist’s collective in the San Francisco Bay area and that’s been running for about 8 years now. Fantastic people, fantastic artists, so I’m giving a bit back to the community, collaborating in the community, painting with the community. I like to invest in the community and shall continue to do so.

Is that something that’s very important to you and have you always invested in the community or wanted to invest in the community?

I think as a young child my parents instilled in me this feeling of responsibility not only for family but for neighbours and for other people, so I think part of where a lot of this comes from is this commitment and passion to serve and so, yes, a big part of me is recognition and support for family. I’ve offered internships every year to students and neighbourhood kids through each one of my businesses. I was taught as a young child to care for other people, to make a better world. That has stuck with me, is what I teach my children and is an important baseline element within my personality. That will not change. I carry those lessons in my innovations and in my business dealings. I think it’s important to be fair. I think it’s important to be kind. I think it’s important to be friendly. I think it’s important to be helpful to others when they need help and I’m hoping, and I feel strongly, that the Micro-Office will help people be better people because it certainly has proven to help me be a better person, better in my thinking, better in my work.


To find out more about Make.Work.Space or contact Walter Craven, please email us at hello@walterc12.sg-host.com.