Twenty years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find that many people who were looking for the best alternatives to a home office. Sure, there have always been freelancers among us, toiling away by themselves in some corner of their house.
However, the popularity gig economy has surged and with it the need for alternative workspaces. According to a 2018 Forbes article, some 36% of American workers (or roughly 57 million people) have staked their claim in the gig economy. Many of them can and do work at home.
But many choose not to either due to the desire to be around other or because they use their freelance status to allow them to travel around. The most successful of these savvy entrepreneurs have found some pretty cool spots to hang their metaphoric shingle. Here’s a look at three of the most interesting places these gig-economiers choose to work.
1. Hotel Lobbies
Due to the upsurge in business travelers, hotels have made working away from home a pretty sweet deal. Many of them offer office centers, where you can print or scan materials.
Most also offer meeting rooms, complete with all the necessary audio/visual equipment you’d need if you’re making professional presentations. Hotels additionally offer WiFi to their guests, often have restaurants, and many of them have more deluxe surroundings than you’d find in an ordinary office space. With the exception of the early morning hours when people are checking out and/or having breakfast in the hotel’s coffee shop, these locations offer freelancers plenty of quiet. They also don’t have the traffic that other open spaces have, which means you can work in peace without much interference.
Do be aware that if you choose to work in a public space like this that you may not have a secure WiFi connection. If you happen to be working on more sensitive materials, your best option may be to save those for a day when you will be working at home on a secured network.
2. Local Coffee Shops
Many gig-economiers love working in the local java joint. And what’s not to love about it? The local coffee house has plenty of coffee to keep your work juice flowing. Most have at least nibblers to snack on, though many more offer sandwiches, soup, and other homemade fare.
And naturally, many now offer WiFi so that busy students and business professionals can get a little work done between sips. That said, coffee shops aren’t without their disadvantages. Many coffee shop drinks will run $4.00 or $5.00 a cup. That habit can add up if you work in coffee shops for more than a couple of days a week. As well, many shop owners don’t want freelancers to take up residence at their tables because it prevents their other regulars from sitting down and chatting it up with friends and family.
Finally, be sure to be mindful of the fact that many coffee shops won’t offer/have enough power outlets for you. That being the case, make sure that you have a strong enough battery in your laptop to work for a couple of hours if that’s what you want to do.
3. The Local Library
Most cities and towns have at least a local library and many have public universities where freelancers love to work. Due to the nature of these spaces, they offer the serious indie worker plenty of advantages. Most if not all have a WiFi connection that has great speeds.
They also have tables and desks for people to work at, public computers, and of course, reference materials. Freelancers like writers and journalists especially love having access to the research materials.Additionally, by their natures, libraries are quiet spaces, which means you won’t have to do too much to concentrate. You’ll get built-in quiet that you won’t have to work for. However, that is not to say that there aren’t drawbacks.
First of all, not all university libraries are open to the public so be sure to find out what the university library’s rules are before you get too comfortable. Secondly, it’s important to know that many libraries that offer computers for public use also impose time limits on those. You may not be able to work more than an hour or two before you have to give your computer up to another library patron.
Other Issues to be Aware Of When Working in Public Spaces
While many freelancers love love working in public spaces like the local coffee house or hotel because they love the vibe, these open spaces can get pretty noisy. If you do choose to work during the busier hours of the day - during breakfast or lunch rush, for example - noise-canceling headphones can help you save your sanity. Do be aware, however, that if you opt to wear a set of wireless headphones, you might be putting yourself at risk for extra EMF radiation exposure.
Not to be a Debby Downer on this one, your head’s biological makeup is the perfect antenna for such rays. As such, your brain’s function can literally be scrambled by your headphone’s electromagnetic fields. In short, without being mindful of wireless headphones safety you’ll eventually have trouble thinking straight due to the interference caused by your electronics. Opting for traditionally wired headphones or EMF-radiation-free air tube headphones will cut down the dangers caused by EMF exposure.
Not all of us have the luxury of an extra room in the house that we can use as an office. And, remember, even home offices are not always all that perfect what with all the noise and interruptions in a day. The three alternatives outlined in this article are a good idea for a digital nomad, busy freelancer or a business owner, who needs a comfortable space and a few hours of some quiet, free Wi-Fi and perhaps a cup of coffee. After all, the office is wherever you put your laptop down. Where is yours?