Canary Wharf is an iconic location. Some people love to hate it – to them it symbolises the evils of financial greed and the self-interested attitude of free-market capitalism. But what’s it like to work there, and what are the workers really like? Cally Skinner went to E14 to find out.
The buzz itself around the area is contagious. Stepping out of the DLR station and into the mix of business suits and large briefcases, you can feel the pressure already.
Lia Twiner, a secretary at accountants PFK Littlejohn LLP, maintains a clear-cut distinction between home life and a high pressure working environment. She has to – otherwise at home she would be unbearably demanding.
Every aspect of working life has to be precise when your job is in Canary Wharf. Dress codes are stricter, expectations are higher, and standards are there to be exceeded rather than merely maintained.
Even the ‘Dress Down Day’ has strict rules, limiting it to blazers and appropriate trousers or skirts. Hardly the jeans and a polo which most jobs accept!
Commenting on the strict dress code, Lia claims it is really a benefit: ‘dressing smart is enjoyable as you fit in with the workers around you and feel like you belong in this thriving district. It would probably be more relaxed elsewhere but insistence on smart attire generates an enjoyable atmosphere.’
Comparing it to a night out, women like Lia plan their outfits for the office, put on their best lipstick and step out the door in new heels feeling fabulous – and that’s all in a day’s work.
The downsides of working here include the commuting. ‘A lot of the execs think they are above you,’ says Lia. ‘They come across quite rude, and this only stops when they see me get off at the same stop as they do. This confirms my right to be there as a fellow Canary Wharf worker!’
And once you’re in with the crowd, you’re with the in-crowd. When work ends, the frenetic pace of working is carried over into the bars and cafes, where it turns into some sort of community spirit. Not what you’d normally associate with a bunch of banking-oriented people commonly dismissed as *ankers.
Delays and strikes on the tube are the real party-poopers. Tempers flare because there’s so much riding on it. ‘People are working hard all day, they’re desperate to get home and the one thing standing in their way is the one thing that they rely on’, Lia observes. There is also the ominous risk of terror attacks which means there are frequent drills to ensure everyone is prepared. ‘This puts a real dampener on the day as you are often reminded of how working in the city can be both the best and worst job,’ adds Lia.
Canary Wharf versus the City is an established rivalry, but for Lia there is no competition:
‘In the summer months Canary Wharf has outdoor shows, fashion shows in the shopping centre, street performers, quirky pop up bars and a beautiful seating area around the fountains. I can get to any of these places in my lunch hour. There are new things to see and enjoy which are easy to get to. Canary Wharf workers appreciate and participate in everything the district offers us.’
Lia feels almost privileged working here: ‘If ever I’m stressed or struggling I can just look out of my window and that immediately lifts my spirits.’ Being in this area and soaking it all in acts as her incentive to work.