The flexibility to work from home is an amazing perk, but where’s a remote worker to go when they need a change of scenery?
To find out, I decided to use the inaugural Owl Labs Work From Home Week as an excuse to try working from a variety of locations.
Remote work location options:
- Coffee shop
- Someone else’s home (with permission!)
The search for the best places to work remotely
To take advantage of summer in Chicago, I set out each morning on my 2005 Tomos ST moped, ready to seek out the best remote work locations. If that sounds like I’m fishing for clout, keep in mind it’s essentially a Barbie motorcycle.
Day One: Coffee Shop
I started the week off with that perennial remote work favorite - the local coffee shop.
Many coffee shops make a point of being attractive to remote workers by making the Wi-Fi easy to access and providing plenty of tabletops. One that I tried even had a printer available for customers, something my own office can’t boast.
Unsurprisingly, the coffee quality is a major perk of working out of a café, plus no one draws smiley faces on my cups at home. Just as unsurprisingly, with the tempting availability of fancy plant milks and extra espresso shots, the cost can add up quickly.
If you find it difficult to concentrate with background conversation, make sure to bring headphones that drown out the noise. Outlet proximity is key, and the seats closest to precious power sources can be snapped up fast.
Day Two: Library
The public library is a place to really buckle down and get to business. There’s no music and minimal conversation, so, barring the presence of unruly children or someone who lets their phone alarm go off for ages, you can expect a quiet experience. On the other hand, that means it’s best suited for work that doesn’t require phone calls or video-conferencing.
There’s little danger of spending money at the library, unless you happen to owe $48 in fines (as a totally random example that I’m sure would only be possible if someone, say, left a book on a plane). Another possible expense is printing - the Chicago Public Library offers this service at 15 cents a page, which hopefully won’t break the bank for most telecommuters.
The library has the bonus effect of making it feel like you should be working on something. The main downside is having to leave to get food and drink, although drinks can be brought back inside.
Day Three: Home
Thanks to G2’s flexible telecommuting policy, I was already used to working from home from time to time before participating in WFH Week and familiar with some of the benefits and drawbacks.
Some of the positive aspects of working where you live can also be a double-edged sword without a little willpower. It’s great to be able to have laundry going while working, but there’s a danger of getting distracted by chores that need some more attention. Plus, while skipping my commute in my pajamas felt like a special treat, it also meant I needed to make an effort to get some fresh air and exercise.
Tempting as it can be to post up on the couch, it’s better to have a designated area for work that removes distractions as much as possible. That’s why out of all the remote work locales I tested, my home is the only one where I can enjoy the dual monitor setup I’ve grown accustomed to at the G2 office.
TIP: Need inspiration for the perfect home workspace? Check out our guide to Home Office Ideas.
Day Four: Someone Else’s Home
For the fourth day, I arranged to work out of my sister’s apartment. It was a solid deal; I got to spend the day in air conditioning, and she got a free dog-walker for the day. My canine niece, Leela, made for a quiet and cuddly officemate, and taking her for a walk around lunchtime gave me an excuse to go outside and get some exercise.
Working from the comfort of someone else’s home provided the WFH benefits without the danger of being led astray by household tasks, and as a personal bonus, my sister has central air. I, sadly, do not.
Day Five: Museum
My museum of choice was the renowned Art Institute of Chicago, which happens to top Foursquare’s list of The 15 Best Places with Wi-Fi in Chicago. My membership card (thanks, Mom) also granted me free coffee and tea in the Member Lounge.
This was, without a doubt, my favorite day of WFH Week. Because the museum doesn’t open until 10:30 a.m., I started my workday at home before heading downtown. Even though I didn’t take much time to linger with the art, walking through the Art Institute made me feel creatively energized and ready to work.
I bought lunch at the adjoining cafeteria and ate it outside in the sunny courtyard, next to a fountain full of napping ducks. Now that’s a lunch break.
Could the Art Institute be the secret remote work MVP of Chicago? With enough visits, the annual membership fee would pay for itself in free hot beverages even if you covered your eyes through all the exhibits.
Go find your (work from) home away from home
While establishing routines is an important part of staying productive as a remote worker, sometimes breaking out of the routine with a new location is just what’s needed to stay motivated.
Bear in mind that working in public spaces usually means logging into potentially insecure Wi-Fi. To keep your sensitive data safe over public Wi-Fi networks, look into VPN software.