Much is written about how you can work everywhere and anywhere. Technology allows us to work collaboratively across time and space with people all over the world, or just the other side of London. Coffee shops boasting free WiFi clog up the high street tempting us in with the chance to catch-up on work while sipping a latte. But in one morning I’ve found two places where working is actively discouraged.
Firstly I went with a friend to the Marsden Hospital in South Kensington to find out her test results. Sitting in the waiting room before she arrived, I was delighted to see that there was free WiFi and attempted to log on. But there’s something rather inappropriate about sending emails about mundane work, while around you people are literally dealing with life and death. Writing a press release about an, albeit very interesting, industry survey, while a stranger was comforted by two friends after hearing less-than-good news about her cancer seems pointless and futile. Which perhaps explains why the WiFi didn’t work that well and no-one had complained about it.
Later while in Victoria with an hour to spare before a meeting, I couldn’t stand the thought of another cup of tea. Shunning the plethora of Starbucks on Victoria Street, I opted for the sanctuary of Westminster Cathedral. It was the perfect place, or so I thought, to shelter from the cold while surreptitiously checking emails on my (silenced) iPhone. I did after all smuggle in a novel to church most weeks as a child and perfected the look of being deep in prayer while in fact catching up on the latest antics of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys from inside my coat.
Being a bit of a facilities nerd, I sat near the front of the cathedral with a scattering of others, to enjoy the sumptuous architecture, and the last trappings of Christmas ¬– the Epiphany was only yesterday so festive trees and lights still abounded. Deep into a long email, imagine my surprise when the bell went and a full-scale Catholic mass began. While my thoughts had been on less heavenly matters, the cathedral had filled up considerably. It was then impossible to escape and I had to switch from iPhone devotion to something far more divine.
All of which makes me realise that not all buildings or situations are designed for work, and perhaps Starbucks isn’t quite so bad after all. There’s usually fewer tears and rarely any incense.