Working remotely sounds great, but spending the entire day alone in your pajamas can get depressing pretty fast. Which is why a lot of freelancers choose to work in coffee shops, libraries, or coworking spaces. But once you're out in the world, you open yourself up to all the same distractions that open office dwellers complain about.
I was once working in my local library when an incensed patron engaged in a loud and very long conversation with the desk clerk about a fine he had incurred. Needless to say, I was not getting any work done.
Another time I tried to go to Starbucks and lost precious work time circling to find parking because the nearby shopping mall was packed. I showed up another night at a favorite cafe, only to learn the place had ended its evening hours.
These experiences have made me wonder if there’s a right way to find the perfect remote work spot—though it’s possible I’m approaching this question with the wrong mind-set. "There’s a lot of fun to be had in discovery while still being able to rely on your own ability to work from anywhere," says Jewel Mlnarik, founder of Workfrom, an app that’s somewhat like Yelp for remote work spots. Here are some ways to master the journey.
I lack the ability to tune out stupid conversations. Therefore, I love quiet. I don’t care about Wi-Fi; I leave my home office to get away from my inbox. Maybe you want somewhere where no one will glare at you for making a phone call. Maybe you don’t trust yourself around pastries, so you’d prefer somewhere that doesn't serve food. Figure out your non-negotiables and start from there.
Apps such as Workfrom list all kinds of remote-worker friendly spots with features and reviews. Search by your criteria, but be flexible on what you’ll try. Some restaurants have more space than coffee shops. Dinner-rush time is probably out, but the middle of the afternoon is okay. LiquidSpace can help you find coworking or rentable office spaces; they’re not "free" like coffee shops, but the price may be comparable to what you shell out for the lattes and salads that finance your keep, and some have more amenities like printing and white boards.
Despite the occasional irate fellow patron, libraries are generally good for quiet work. Universities may have study spaces that don’t require a student ID. Hotel lobbies have a good bustle if you prefer that. Or there’s this: "I am lucky, I happen to live in Portland," says Mlnarik, and "a lot of Portland parks have Wi-Fi and often have power too." Pro tip: Look for outlets by baseball dugouts.
Experiment with different places to see where you work best. I now go to a larger branch library where I can work far away from the checkout desk. I’ve discovered that my local Panera has more parking and tables than my local Starbucks. Mlnarik suggests using recommendations from apps to try new neighborhoods.
"When you need to take a break, walk around and let yourself explore new surroundings," she says. Often these new stimuli spark great ideas. Consider trying places that don’t meet all your criteria; a place that doesn’t work for a phone call is fine if you park nearby. A car is "a perfect little office" for a few minutes, says Mlnarik.
The upside of returning to a few favorite places regularly is that the staff will get to know you. They’ll become friendly faces. They may also warn you if the coffee shop has scheduled a concert on the day you usually work there.
Rating work spots helps the whole remote worker ecosystem; a coffee shop owner who welcomes free agents deserves more of their business. But beyond that, "What we hear a lot is that working outside of the office can get lonely," says Mlnarik. People ask, "Where are other people working, and how can I meet up with other people out in the wild?"
Check in with your location, and you might be able to chat during a break with someone working on similar issues. Not only will you get a productive work session in, you might make a connection as well—and that would make anywhere a perfect remote work spot.