Life is fine-tuned

Eastcastle Street in Fitzrovia, London, that patch bounded by Oxford Street (East of Oxford Circus) and Tottenham Court Road. It is the central London bustle of people’s dreams. It could be Soho to the South East or it could be parts of Clerkenwell, Mayfair or Bloomsbury. A restaurant, a sandwich shop, a gallery, a pub, a workplace whose purpose is hard to fathom on first glance. There is always a purpose; it’s just that people and businesses are so inventive that there are so many purposes to them, and that the casual observer cannot re-invent everything that has been invented by so many people.

It’s lunchtime. On the street, workers in shirt sleeves – this is not a particularly formal part of central London, as it goes – rush for lunch. Who knows what they are all doing? Above the shops and offices at street level are brick buildings finished with stone, all different as is the London style, a fabulous creation borne not of one person’s vision but of the sum of a million people’s endeavours in entirely separate directions.

One office catches my eye, perhaps because it looks like a supercharged version of the office I worked in during my first real job. It would be the office chosen to show a perfect working life in a film: London or New York, busy, colourful, purposeful, cool. Certainly white desks, certainly phones alive with quick commerce.

To a substantial proportion of workers, this is the world of work. I suspect that most workers in that office that I saw, absolutely love it and regard it as a large and flattering part of their being.

Some Fridays, some workers here will plan ahead and bring to work what they need for the weekend, and at 5pm or 6pm they will take the train home – as many will be in their 20s – or to a destination to meet friends. During the day, on Friday, they will finish a report to a deadlines, meet someone for lunch, spend an allotted amount of time looking ahead in a more investigative style, take calls, make calls and keep up their share of the office’s administration. It will be an exacting day.

The pace of the day fits the work of the firm.

Then having rushed for the train, made it through one of the London stations – not calm places at rush hour – and found a seat or a place to stand that is nonetheless definitely on the train as opposed to off, the mind feels jubilation, satisfaction and then rest.

Where is the jubilation, satisfaction and rest if we are working at home? These human emotions are crucial to us, in the way that all human emotions are crucial to us because they balance each other out. We can work hard if there is the prospect of jubilation, satisfaction and rest.

Author: Simon Stevens

Simon Stevens is an independent researcher. He is a founder and Director of the travel company Alpine Exploratory based in Edinburgh in the UK. Simon studied philosophy and economics at Bristol University and economics at Oxford University.