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Barcelona: Probably the Best City in the World!

Barcelona: Probably the Best City in the World!

There is nothing objective about this article. I love Barcelona and anything that I write about this city can only ever be positive. Of course, I have known tough times in the city too, but she always draws me back. I’m pretty sure she always will.

For those who have not been fortunate enough to ever visit Barcelona before, I hope these words inspire you to go for the first time. If you’ve already been, hopefully, this will make you want to return. Whether it’s your first time or your tenth, Barcelona will never let you down.

The Barrios of Barcelona

In the fifteen years that I have been lucky enough to call Barcelona my home, I have lived in well over 20 different apartments and in almost every neighbourhood (barrio) within the city.

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The Born was and still is one of the places a lot of tourists and students head to when they visit Barcelona today. The squares of Gracia are also a classic and often many people’s favourite memory once they leave the city.

In recent years, however, a lot of previously unheralded neighbourhoods have become a lot more interesting and exciting. Poble Sec and the nearby block of streets known as Sant Antoni have bars and restaurants to keep you entertained all day, and this is definitely one part of the city that I feel most comfortable in these days.

The Raval was my home for years and will always be a place I go back to. It might feel a little bit wild for some people’s tastes, but it is still one of the most authentic slices of real living, breathing life to be found in the centre of the city.

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The Architecture

You cannot write about Barcelona without talking about the architecture. His masterpiece, The Sagrada Familia, remains a work in progress, but Antoni Gaudi is the still Barcelona’s favourite son. Gaudi’s influence on the city is immense, with both visitors and residents alike forever in the debt of the great man for leaving such a magical imprint over so much of the city.

The buildings all over the city are impressive, but it is not just these structures that make Barcelona such a welcoming place. The old city planners who decided to grid the city in blocks deserve special mention for making this place so easy to navigate and the sheer number of open squares that just invite you to sit down for a second and take it easy under the sun are really something special.

Add into the mix all of the fantastic buildings that home some of the city’s best museums, and the cathedral and all of the beautiful churches, and it’s pretty impossible for you to not leave this place feeling inspired.

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The Culture

Barcelona is unique in that it is perhaps the best-known city in Spain, but for many residents, this is Catalunya, not Spain. This conflict is still an ongoing and open one, but the history of the story behind this sentiment, or its reverse, is very much a part of what makes life in Barcelona so interesting today. We are in Catalunya, but we are also undoubtedly in Spain, and in many ways, this contradiction is what seems to fuel a lot of the artistic passion within the city.

From the Picasso Museum to the fantastic National Museum of Catalunya (MNAC) up on the side of Montjuic, Barcelona has something to offer the tastes of all culture vultures. This vibrant culture definitely doesn’t stop with art either. Food, sports, film, music, literature, and anything else that plays into a great city’s cultural heritage can be found in the amazing melting pot that is Barcelona.

The Diversity

It is perhaps because the city is so conflicted in terms of history and its place within Spain that so many people from outside feel so at home here. The Catalans and the Spanish may fight over whom this city really belongs to, but for us outsiders, we can simply take pleasure in being here.

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Of all the cities I have visited in Spain, Barcelona is the most diverse both in terms of its visitors and the residents. It is a Catalan city. It is a Spanish city, but it is also a Filipino city, a Pakistani city, an Arab city, and a home both permanent and temporary for people from all over the world. It is where you can come for the best party ever, but it is also one where you can find yourself and make a whole new life.

As a young man from Manchester who had never lived away from home before, Barcelona stole my heart. I’m certain that it did the same thing to at least one more person today and that it will do so again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. Don’t take my word for it, go and find out for yourself.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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