Web work — also known as telecommuting or remote work — has many benefits, not least of which is a reduction in commuting, and the resulting lower fuel consumption and better work/life balance. But not every remote worker or freelancer wants to work from their home office all of the time; many don’t have the space to build a properly equipped home office, and most people will need a meeting room from time to time. Meeting an important client over the dinner table just isn’t going to cut it.
Fortunately, there are now plenty of places where you can find a workspace outside the home office, ranging from coffees shops with Wi-Fi to dedicated coworking centers and office space sublets. However, it’s not always easy to know where to look for them, and having taken the long commute to the office out of the equation, you don’t want to find a workspace that’s miles from your home. In this post I’m going to round up a few of the most useful resources for finding local desk and meeting room space. All of the resources listed below are free to use unless otherwise indicated.
Coworking centers are café-like collaboration spaces for independent professionals (if you’d like to find out more about coworking, Imran put together a good summary). The movement has grown in popularity over the past few years, fueled by the demand of a growing number of freelancers, and there are now coworking centers in cities (and even more rural locations) all over the world. Generally, coworking spaces will offer monthly memberships (either with your own desk, or as a “hotdesking” membership) and a daily “drop in” rate. While they tend to be populated primarily by freelancers and small business owners, remote employees can also enjoy the benefits of a well-equipped office space, camaraderie and the ability to bounce ideas off others.
The coworking wiki is the official repository for all things coworking, and includes a directory of coworking spaces around the world. While its useful for finding out if there is a coworking center in your vicinity, the quality of the entries in the directory itself can be a bit of a mixed bag. As it’s a wiki, and the entries are generally entered by the coworking space owners, the amount of information presented varies — sometimes you’ll just get a list of prices, sometimes you’ll get a description of the space, its facilities and what it’s like to work there. Still, it’s a good resource to draw up a shortlist of potential spaces from.
A Jelly is “a casual work event where everyone’s invited.” It’s an informal coworking-like gathering of professionals at a suitably equipped location — that could be someone’s house (which is how Jelly started), but more commonly at a coffee shop or in an office. A Jelly is a great way to get out of the home office, network and spark some great conversation — and they’re usually free (I wrote more about Jelly here).
Like coworking, Jelly has grown in popularity in the last few years and there are now hundreds of Jellies held regularly — often weekly or monthly — in many locations worldwide, as detailed in the Jelly wiki. There is likely a Jelly group near you (and if there isn’t, you can always start one). Again, as the information is held in an unstructured wiki, some groups have more detailed or up-to-date information about their meetings than others, but it should be enough to tell you about your nearby groups.
Loosecubes is a useful web app that lets you search for both desk and meeting room space; you can look for space to lease for as short as one day. It’s currently in beta, but it’s a nicely designed site, allowing you to browse a map of your city to find suitable locations. Clicking on one of the spaces on the map brings up a thumbnail image of the space, together with its price — clicking on that takes you to a new page with more photos (if available) and a detailed description of the space, its amenities and the working environment. Loosecubes currently lists over 500 spaces in around 180 cities, primarily in the U.S. It lists space in coworking centers, office space to lease and businesses looking to share their office space with others. It’s free to use.
Similar to Loosecubes, Deskwanted lists available office space from coworking centers and businesses looking to sublet their own space. You can search by location and lease term (daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly) and it’ll return a listing of results. You can also search on a map view. It has listings from over 600 spaces worldwide, although it has more of a focus on Europe — it has plenty of listings in London, for example, whereas Loosecubes only has one). Deskwanted is also still in beta, which may explain why some features are a bit buggy (map search isn’t working on Firefox for me currently, for example). It’s free to use.
Share Your Office
Run by San Francisco-based coworking outfit pariSoma, Share Your Office is another site with listings advertising available office space. It’s primarily aimed at advertising shared office space (businesses looking to sublet their own space), but also has listings from coworking centers and commercial leases. As with Loosecubes and Deskwanted, you can search by location and budget and also search on a map. Share Your Office doesn’t seem to have quite as many listings as the other two, though.
WorkSnug is a neat augmented reality mobile app. Go to a supported city (it works in many major cities in Europe and North America), fire up the app and get an augmented reality view of your surroundings that shows suitable work locations in the immediate vicinity, from coffee shops to meeting rooms to coworking centers. You can also view results on a more traditional map view. Each listing provides details of the space, including whether power, Wi-Fi and refreshments are available (together with ratings of their quality), noise level and if formal areas/meeting rooms are available. It’s available as a free app for iPhone and BlackBerry (s rimm). You can also use WorkSnug via the website.
Similar to Worksnug, Laptopfriendlycafes lists coffee shops suitable for working, including details of whether Wi-Fi and power are available, ratings for the coffee and ambiance, and user reviews. As you might expect given the name, it concentrates on coffee shops, so isn’t the app to use to look for longer office space or meeting room rentals. It’s available via the website and through an iPhone app (s aapl), which costs $0.99.
Local listings magazines, Craigslist, Gumtree
Although the options listed above are all great ways of finding office space, many potential office space advertisers may not know about them. Local listings magazines, Craigslist and Gumtree (in the U.K.) are all good places to look for shared office advertisements from companies looking to sublet some of their space.
If you’re just looking to rent a meeting room temporarily, virtual office space provider Regus has them available worldwide, often in convenient locations, such as nearby to transport hubs.
Finally, don’t ignore your networks. A great way to find temporary shared office space is to ask your contacts (and get them to ask their contacts) on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Many businesses may be nervous about subletting their space to complete strangers — a friend of a friend is always going to be a more attractive option.