Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Jelly breaks the mould

The sheer joy of realising, when the alarm goes off, that you don’t have to join the daily commute to the office, makes working from home a dream come true.
But even though I’m glad the daily grind is behind me, sometimes I miss the buzz and the chatter, and even the comfort of working among other people.

That’s why I took myself off to Norwich Jelly on Monday.  In practical terms you’re picking up your laptop and mobile (plus pen and notepad) from one room  and setting them down in another room. The difference is that the first room – your workspace – contains just you. The second room, which is in the centre of Norwich, contains people – like-minded workers  who, from time to time, like to come out of hiding and sit among fellow human beings.
Norwich Jelly is a once-a-month workhub, hosted by Business Revolution at the King’s Centre, Norwich.  It’s free, but you have to book your half-day session in advance, and places are limited to 10 per session. If you like the experience of getting out of the house, then you can go one step further and rent desk space from just one day a week, or go the whole hog and make it your permanent “office”.

So there I was on Monday morning, waiting at the park and ride. It felt a little strange setting off on the bus, just like the old days, but it felt good – as if I had become a proper person again. I did the coffee thing  in the King’s Centre cafe and took the lift up to Business Revolution on the second floor.
A few people were already there, beavering away on their laptops. I wasn’t sure of the protocol, so I just sat down at a free space, smiled across at the person opposite me, plugged in my laptop, connected to the free wi-fi, and away I went. It took a bit of getting used to, working around other people again, but the good thing about Norwich Jelly is that you have to work. There are none of the usual distractions, like putting out the washing, playing with the cat, making snacks.

To ensure  I used every precious Jelly minute to the full, I prepared the night before by writing a to do list. As I worked through it, people came and went, then Sophie, one of the organisers came over and chatted. That broke the ice and soon we were checking out each other’s skills and exchanging business cards.
Norwich Jelly is not the place to pitch your business or to sell your products – you will be politely shot down in flames if you try to treat it as such – but it is a chance to chat to other freelancers, home workers and small business owners. A bit of soft networking goes on and I came away with some useful leads and the offer of help with my website in exchange for some content writing.

Did I get much done? A fair amount but, more importantly, I met some like-minded people and connected with the world of work again. The four hours – I was booked in from 9.30-1.30 – went far too quickly. Would I do it again? The date’s already in the diary.
Where does Jelly come from? It was started in 2006 by two New York freelancers who were bemoaning  the drawbacks of working alone. They decided to invite fellow freelancers to bring their laptops and work in their apartment for the day. The story goes They called it Jelly, as they were eating Jelly beans at the time, according to the story. However, I like to think of it in a different way. If you take our word for jelly, you get jam, and it’s a bit like everyone in a room jamming together…. but quietly.

  • The next Norwich Jelly event is on Monday, May 14. There are two session: 9.30-13.30 and 13.30 to 17.30. Find out more at Norwich Jelly. The King’s Centre is easy to find and Business Revolution in on the second floor. The café serves fantastic coffee, cakes and meals, and there is good parking nearby.
  • There are Jelly events all over the UK. Here’s the site UK Jelly
  • For more details about hiring rooms at Business Revolution, go to

Why not wobble along!

Image: Michael Lorenzo


  1. I love this idea!!! Would be great to find something similar a little closer to home (like say, New York :). I find that the distractions available at home can be really detrimental to a "good" day's work, but would love to choose an office-like environment over Starbucks.

  2. Thanks Anne, I'm really glad you found it useful and enjoyable. I love working but home but really appreciate the company of others for one day a month. Since we started Norwich Jelly, I've been suprised at how far some people have travelled to attend, and at the tasks people bring with them for the day. It's common to see people stagger with carrier bags full of receipts as they get down to a day of catching up with their account as there are no "home" distractions. Although most bring their laptops, some bring piles of reading matter, and a seamstress bought a heap of clothes and sat there sewing all day.

    See you at Business Revolution at the Kings Centre, Norwich on May 14


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