11 Comments

Summary:

As web workers, we like to feel that we can sit down just about anywhere and be connected and productive. Armed with our laptops and Wi-Fi, or mobile broadband, that is usually the case.

But just because we can work anywhere, doesn’t mean that we should. Our work environment is a critical part of our work process and can have tremendous influence on our productivity.

So what are our options?

Woman-typing-on-laptopAs web workers, we like to feel that we can sit down just about anywhere and be connected and productive. Armed with our laptops and Wi-Fi, or mobile broadband, that is usually the case.

But just because we can work anywhere, doesn’t mean that we should. Our work environment is a critical part of our work process and can have tremendous influence on our productivity.

So what are our options?

Home: It’s no surprise that many web workers set up their work spaces at home. With a spare room or out of the way corner, you can be up and running with minimal cost and effort.

However, many of the benefits of a work at home environment are also potential drawbacks. Being close to family is great but they can also be a distraction. And while I would love the zero mile commute, maintaining a work-life balance can be a real issue for some.

There can also be privacy concerns when your home address or phone number is also used as a business location. PO boxes or mail stops can assist with the physical mail, and many folks use their mobile as a business line. Using a virtual phone service like GrandCentral or PhoneFusion can help keep your home line clear, as well as presenting a more professional appearance.

Hot-Spots: If you have ever walked in to a Panera or Starbucks, or a local coffee shop or cafe that offers free Wi-Fi, you’ve seen the scores of folks set up with their laptops diligently tapping away.

Working in a public spot like this certainly offers its advantages. The availability of Wi-Fi makes access to work easy, and we all know that caffeine fuels the web worker. Also, there is a feeling of community that can develop and the presence of other folks around can ease the sense of isolation that can be an issue for solo workers.

While I think hot-spots can serve as great meeting places, it would be a challenge for me as a full time work location. Making and receiving calls can be difficult, and sometimes power availability can be a big issue.

Also, rules for purchasing requirements and time limits can vary widely by location, and the costs of a daily coffee / bagel can add up quickly.

If you do utilize the space and services of a local establishment, be sure to also support them with your purchases.

Traditional Office: Many web workers do work in traditional office environments or set up shop by renting local office space. I found a nice space in the downtown area of my village that is quite affordable and gives me a conveniently-located space to work and hold meetings.

I appreciate never having to worry about finding a comfortable chair or a power outlet. I like maintaining control of my own Internet connection, and I don’t know how I would function without my whiteboard. Having a distinct work space, located out of the home, also makes that end of day transition much easier.

There are additional costs like insurance that can come along with a rented space but it is a good option for those that want to have a distinct work environment or a physical presence in your community.

Coworking: We’ve written a lot about coworking here on WebWorkerDaily and it is an exciting trend for the solo web worker. A good coworking facility can offer a lot of the benefits of a coffee-shop or cafe, while also providing some traditional office luxuries like whiteboards or meeting rooms. It is an emerging trend, though, and finding a good space can be difficult, especially in smaller suburban or remote areas.

When you’ve decided where you’re going to work from, it’s important to remember that the title of “web worker” is given to those who use the web to work productively and efficiently, no matter where you set up.

Where do you work?

(photo via Matthew Bowden)

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  1. I work from home, an upstairs office. I do love it as it saves me ton on transport bills. I do need to have the designated office space as it does feel like a working environment.

    Eventhough I love coffee, I can simply not work from a Starbucks. Too much distraction

  2. Stephen McGehee Friday, February 27, 2009

    I work in an office that we built onto the house last year. After 12 years of working in a spare bedroom set up as an office, it is really nice to have room to spread out. Being a completely separate part of the house means that we can close the door and be isolated from home distractions, yet we have all the conveniences of home. It’s nice to take a break by going out into the garden or playing with the dog.

  3. I currently work in a corner of the bedroom (we have a TINY house), but aim to either add an office to the house ($16,000 for a demountable) or pay for space in someone else’s office if possible.

  4. I usually work at home. I find it impossible to work at Starbucks–the music is too loud and it is hard to explain to a business caller why a coffee grinder keeps going off! I did end up working in a casino a few times and got tons of work done–seems the sound of poker chips is like white noise to me :)

  5. Deb Frawley Monday, March 2, 2009

    I also work from a home office, and when its nice out from my deck :)

    To avoid the privacy issue in using my home address, I use a PO Box for mailing purposes. I love working from home, but do agree that it can be distracting at times. What I’ve done is set up specific working hours for myself and try to stick to those hours as much as possible. Of course there are always going to be times when this isnt possible. And thats ok because that’s one of the reasons I work from home….the flexibility!

  6. I have set a bedroom up as a dedicated office, which is a nice place to store my peripeherals, books, magazines, etc. But I find myself working from various rooms in my home. Not being tied to one spot is great for ergonomics, because if your back starts hurting you can stand and work from the kitchen island. Or you can sit in a comfy chair with the laptop in your lap, which keeps the shoulders aligned and not shrugged up around the ears.

  7. WebWorkerDaily » Archive Web Work 101: Wrap-up « Wednesday, March 4, 2009

    [...] Web Work 101: Where to Work? [...]

  8. I too work from home and yes it can de distracting but I tend to do a longer week because I have no commute.

  9. I’ve spent the last few days at my local library writing. This is an excellent location for me, though it does have its drawbacks. One of my websites is blocked by their router (I have no idea why), but I don’t have to rely on their wireless because I have have a cellular modem for my laptop — I highly recommend these! It would be an awkward place to deal with phone calls, but fortunately, I don’t need to use one right now. There’s no food allowed except in the cafe, but going to get something to eat elsewhere gives me a good excuse to get up, stretch, take a walk, remember what “outside” looks like, and so forth.

    Those drawbacks aside, the library has a number of advantages:
    -It’s free.
    -It’s quiet, so you can focus.
    -There are other people around, which mitigates the isolation issue somewhat, even though it’s not a place to socialize.
    -Most libraries I’ve been to are clean, spacious, and well-lit.
    -Let’s not forget the books! For when electronic research just isn’t enough, you’re in the ideal environment for taking your search offline into the world of processed tree carcasses.

    Libraries are excellent environments for knowledge workers, as that’s exactly what they were designed for!

  10. remote control software Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    I agree with David – the business room of my local library allows me to get out of my house, have a short “commute,” and gives me a peaceful working space w/ access to many research resources. If I am setting up calls, I will schedule time at home, but I prefer to combine the flexibility of controlling my own work with the ability to consider home and work separate.

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