I love working in places that are not primarily made for work. My mind appreciates variety and as soon as I introduce it to a new place, it’s keen to maximise it, by making the most of the time spent there.
I have been inspired to work in unusual places by seeing people reading on the tube in London about five years ago when I first came to London. A feeling of awe and appreciation arose in me for the people who even while standing up in a crowded tube find the mental capacity to engage in the act of reading. This inspired me to follow their example and carry a book with me whenever I knew I would be using public transport. On a side note, I found it interesting that it was only when I came to London that I have been exposed to the reading-on-the-tube culture. No other capital where I used the underground system (New York included) seems to have cultivated people’s reading habits.
Soon after I was inspired to adopt the reading-on-the-tube practice, I decided to take it further by taking advantage of the lack of distractions to work on things that don’t require internet connection. This instilled me to look out for more non-work places where to attempt to produce my finest work. And so here are some of my favourite unusual work spaces:
1. Planes with no in-flight entertainment
I talked at length about my love for working in planes in this article. Basically, I cherish the time I spend while I am on a plane with no in-flight entertainment, as a very special and productive time that takes me out of my routine and enables deep work, focus and concentration. My mind takes control of my hunger pangs and cravings and it gives me the power to put words on paper, even if I don’t feel very inspired and in the absence of any working artifacts or stimuli I often employ to boost my productivity.
2. In airports
I find airports to be the biggest time drainers, especially because of the expectancy to get there several hours before the flight. Also, the time spent queuing for the various check-in procedures, security checks, bag drops etc. is downtime in its crudest form. That’s why I carry an open book with me all around the airport and take the opportunity to read it as soon as I am stood still. When I have the opportunity to sit down I open my laptop and engage in serious mental work.
3. In trains and on their platforms
There is a certain bohemia about travelling by train and I find working on the train to be truly glorious and indulgent, particularly when I have access to a spacious table and I am on a quiet coach with wifi access.
John Lewis summer rooftop and the Sky Garden above Walkie Talkie have helped me to produce some of my finest deep work. My mind feels more elevated when I am atop tall buildings. I love to take in the views of the big city as a breath of fresh air before I immerse myself into deep work. Rooftops beaming with plants, music and fresh air are such inspirational work spaces that I always look forward to the days I get to spend in them and often take my entire work arsenal when I plan to visit them.
5. Concerts and entertainment shows
I often find that artists take a long time to come on stage and this experience has taught me to always take a book when I go to gigs. This not only ensures that I avoid getting bored (which my hyperactive mind dreads), but it also ensures that I turn “downtime” into “uptime”.
6. Hotel lobbies
I love feeling like a tourist in my town, so whenever I pass by a nice hotel and I have some spare time, I take the opportunity to go in, admire the beautifully decorated interiors and sit down on a comfortable armchair or on one of the sofas and start reading and writing. Whilst in a hotel lobby, the thought of being on holiday crawls in and immediately relaxes me, whereas the beautifully decorated interiors have the inspirational work effect on me and get me into the creative and productive mindset. I find that hotel lobbies are often underused, as hotel guests are there only briefly in transition, so by turning hotel lobbies into my inspirational workspaces I like to think that I am honouring the effort, thought and attention that goes into designing and decorating them.
In London, I particularly like to work in the Rosewood hotel, located in Holborn. Due to its timeless luxury, this hotel is an oasis of tranquility. The elegant reception leads into a sumptuous antechamber, which is the entree to various meeting rooms as well as a secluded business centre. To me, this antechamber is a better workspace than the business centre itself. Featuring a wide round wooden table, fresh white hydrangeas and a retro lamp on the table facing a majestic cabinet of decorative artefacts, this place is the quintessential invitation to immerse myself into work. The Edwardian terrace of the Rosewood hotel is a great alfresco workspace, where nature meets luxury and architectural elegance. In the summer, this terrace becomes an exquisite Botanist Greenhouse, featuring luscious foliage, hanging terrariums.
The Hoxton hotel, with branches in both Holborn and Shoreditch, is a great free co-working space. Judging by the multitude of Apple Maps visible from the windows of the creative hub for artists and designers,
7. Parks and green spaces
Nature has always inspired me to achieve greatness during my runs and ultimately this led me to bring my mind to experience the same benefits. Apart from the fresh air and the occasional sunshine, working in nature has the added benefit of providing a senatorial immersion that not many workplaces do: our senses of sight, sound, smell and touch are all stimulated by the surrounding vegetation and wildlife.
Living in London, I am fortunate to be able to go to the beautiful Royal Parks, where the exquisite flower arrangements meets the delicate fauna represented by swans, geese, ducks and squirrels. Working under an archway of flowers in Regents Park is an absolute dream.
However, any park or even a secluded patch of green land have the potential to stimulate your mind and set you into a productivity mindset, as the abundance of oxygen prevalent in nature is the main booster of mental processes.
8. Other people's houses
The first time I started working in other people's houses was when I spent the winter holidays at my boyfriend's parents during the exam revision period in my first year at university. Their welcoming home, which was simultaneously a new space for me bringing a sense of newness and variety, inspired me to make the most of my time there by catching every glimpse of free time to get a head start on my revision. This made me aware that I love working in any home that's beautifully decorated and maintained.
The first time I went to the gym, I saw someone reading a book on the bike. After my initial surprise, I was in awe with this lady who was combining work with leisure. Then, I realised than turning the wheels of the stationery bike in the gym can power one to achieve a great state of productivity and focus. So, next time I visited the gym, I came quipped with a stash of academic papers that I had to read for my university exams and essays during my 50-minute bike and cross-training workout. Knowing that I had the limited time slot of workout duration to get through my reading materials often led me to read quicker than I would normally do.
While the bike and the cross trainer are the only reader-friendly fitness stations, if your work involves keeping up with the news or learning a new language, then you could download relevant podcasts and listen to them while on the treadmill, cross-trainer, rowing machine or during weight lifting. The endorphins that your body releases during the workout will boost your work motivation and efficiency.
Another reason to bring your work to the gym or workout studio is that most respectable fitness places have an on-site cafe. I find that the time when I am most keen to work is straight after finishing a workout. This is not only due to the release of endorphins and boost of energy I feel after exercising, but also because, I often think that I could be doing more important things instead of working out, so to attenuate this mental conflict I want to perceive physical exercise as a means to an end (to work more efficiently), rather than a an end in itself (which would probably make me to relax fully at the end of the workout).
I just love the short burst of productivity and inspiration that I get when I know I am in a new place for a limited time. I have produced some of my finest work in these places and I will be forever grateful to them for bringing me into an artistically inspired work mode, powered by the efficiency derived from being there.