Working at home is the dream of many a cubicle dweller, but those who’ve achieved it know that remote work can be a lonely endeavor. And with the constant temptation of the TV and refrigerator (and nap time), it can be just as difficult to focus at home as in the office.
That’s why coffee shops have become the go-to spot for remote work. You get to benefit from both the buzz of the caffeine and the buzz of working in a stimulating environment around other people.
The problem is, everybody works from coffee shops these days. Cafes always seem to be overcrowded with freelancers and their laptops. Often it’s too loud to make business phone calls. And too many laptops makes the wifi slow and unreliable.
So what’s a freelancer or remote worker to do?
The answer is to explore new, uncharted territory for unusual workspaces. To help you be more productive, here are 11 places other than a coffee shop where you can sit down, focus, and finally get some work done.
1. Hotel Lobbies
Hotel lobbies are my favorite place to get serious work done away from the home office. During the week lobbies are often deserted, making it the perfect spot for phone calls. There’s usually excellent wifi, and if the wifi is locked down, it’s not too difficult to get a front desk worker to tell you the password. If you need to print or fax, there’s usually a business center where you can take care of those tasks, too.
If the thought of being a freeloader makes you uneasy, just order a drink or some food at the lobby bar. It’ll cost you about the same as a trip to the coffee shop and you’ll be a whole lot more comfortable.
If you plan on working out of hotel lobbies regularly, just make sure to rotate, or the staff might catch on.
If you don’t need to make phone calls, libraries are a great place to get serious work done. Lots of tables and free wifi is the norm. If your local public libraries are too crowded (or rowdy), consider a private membership library. Membership fees at private libraries are often a fraction of the cost for a spot in a coworking space.
Many museums offer both free admission and free wifi. One such institution is The Getty, perched atop a hill overlooking the westside of Los Angeles. There’s no cost to enter, though you do have to pay for parking.
If the ambient noise doesn’t bother you, mall food courts can be a good option for remote work. They’ve got plenty of space to accommodate weekend crowds, so you’ll have plenty of room to spread out during the workday. Free parking is another plus. And the big mall chains such as Westfield now offer free wifi, too.
5. Gyms and Sports Clubs
Lots of gyms and sports clubs now have smoothie bars, cafes, and restaurants that make great places to sit down with a laptop. So why not put your gym membership to use for work, too? Many upscale gyms — pardon me, fitness centers — such as Equinox now offer free wifi.
As an added bonus, you don’t have to feel bad anymore about never working out. And now you have a real reason to try deducting your gym membership on your taxes!
6. Bars and Pubs
For all the benefits of a cafe without the hordes of wannabe screenwriters, try a pub. True writers drink liquor, not coffee.
7. Fast Food Restaurants
They may not be the healthy option, but you can rely on wifi at many of the nation’s top fast food chains. The list includes Burger King, Denny’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s.
You might think that a fast food restaurant is not quite the right ambiance for work, but you may be surprised. Established chains such as McDonald’s have begun upgrading their interior design to compete with new, more upscale challengers.
8. College Campuses
Many student unions have lounges where you can spread out and get work done. The only trouble these days can be getting on the secured wifi networks, and maybe getting on campus, too, if you’re not a student. So enroll in a course, get a student ID, and take advantage of all the resources your local university or community college has to offer.
9. Co-Working Spaces
Coworking spaces are a great option for freelancers and remote workers, but the fee for a dedicated desk can run hundreds per month. This puts off many freelancers just starting out, or those of us who only need to get out of the house occasionally.
WeWork has come up with a way around that by offering what they call a We Membership. With this type of coworking membership, you don’t get your own office or desk. Instead, you get access to any available desk in the common area at a variety of locations. This isn’t as convenient as a dedicated workspace, but it’s a lot cheaper. Plus, your membership still comes with unlimited free coffee (and beer).
We Memberships cost $50 per month and cover one day per month. Additional days are also $50. Conference rooms are $25 per hour. Mail and package handling is an extra $50 per month.
10. Other People’s Homes
Many local governments are now deploying free wifi to parks and sometimes entire municipalities.
In 2014, Los Angeles set up free, public wifi networks at Cabrillo Beach, Echo Park Lake, Griffith Observatory, Pershing Square, Reseda Park, and Venice Beach.
Meanwhile, the City of Santa Monica deployed free wifi for the entire city.
The New York City Parks Department provides wifi in parks across the city. Here’s a list.
San Francisco does too. Check the interactive map here.
Bringing it all back home
Of course, sometimes the best place to get things done is at home. To get one of the big benefits of working remotely without going anywhere, try Coffitivity, a free playlist of ambient cafe sounds.
It might sound silly, but studies have shown that listening to moderate ambient noise "enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products."
Where else do you work remotely?
Do you have any favorite spots for working that I missed? I'd love to know, as I'm always on the lookout for new places to get things done. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.