Mobile Workspaces: What to Look For

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2905808399_e8570329aeAs a web worker, you have the freedom to work from anywhere that has an Internet connection. A coffee shop or a library can make for just as good a workspace as a home office. But workplaces are not created equal. The differences between individual coffee shops can turn one into the perfect place to plant your laptop, while making another an impossible place to get any work done. The trick is learning to recognize what makes the best workspace for you before you buy a cup of coffee and find a chair.

More Than Just Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is crucial to a web worker’s ability to work on the road, but just knowing a that your local library branch offers free Wi-Fi isn’t enough to tell you that it’s a great workspace. Knowing how good the Wi-Fi is will tell you how much work you’ll be able to get done, especially if you’re working on something that requires a lot of bandwidth. If you’re working in a coffee shop when someone has to reboot the router every hour or in a co-working space where everyone is a heavy Internet user, you may not be able to get the kind of access you need for your work. Unfortunately, it can be hard to figure out the status of the Wi-Fi until you sit down and turn on your computer. It may be worth booting up and trying it out before you settle in for the long haul.

Depending on how long you plan to work, you may also need an electrical outlet to plug your laptop into. You’ll find different policies on just outlet usage, depending on where you go to work: at most chain coffee shops, there are at least a few outlets that customers can use. In some independent coffee shops, though, it’s becoming more common to find outlets taped over, unavailable for your use. Keep an eye out for accessible power on your way in — if you look around and there are no outlets you can use, it may be time to move on to the next place on your list.

Think Ergonomically

When you’re choosing a place to work, it’s important to make sure that you can sit comfortably for a long period of time. If you wind up hunched over your laptop, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, it’s much harder to get work done than if you find a comfortable chair that allows you to easily reach your laptop. Being able to use a table can make a big difference in how comfortable a workspace is, but other factors can be more personal. Look for chairs and arrangements that match your own preferences for comfort.

Coworking spaces can often provide a step above other options when it comes to comfort. Coworking spaces are usually designed from the ground up to provide guests with a place to get their work done, as opposed to a restaurant that may want to encourage customers to move along so new customers can sit down.

The Cost of the Workspace

Despite the fact that some people view being mobile as a way to avoid paying for office space, there are still costs associated with going into a coffee shop and sitting down. You’ll order at least a cup of coffee, and most people consider it polite to keep ordering food and drinks as long as they are taking up a table. A library may have no cost associated with using it as a workspace, but the library staff may ask you to limit your time if there’s a lot of demand at a given time. A coworking space will have an upfront fee.

It’s important to consider the cost of working at a particular location. Even if such expenses are tax deductible (remember to keep receipts!) they can quickly add up.

What do you look for in your mobile workspaces?

Photo credit: Flickr user theregeneration

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A corn cob in the cup holder… I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. It’s important. I always go away with something useful from this blog. ;->

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