Photo courtesy of WeWork If you’ve ever uttered the above phrase in conversation, you’ve likely received one of two common reactions — “That’s so cool!” or a puzzled stare. Both are inevitably followed by the same question: “Yeah, but where do you work?”
Though still hard to fathom for most, remote work is becoming increasingly common. As reported by The New York Times last year, remote work has risen 79 percent between 2005 and 2012. Include the self-employed, plus those who work from home at least one day a week, and an estimated 30 percent of Americans now work remotely. And, thanks to a ever-expanding range of collaboration tools, staying in touch with “the office” has never been easier.
While numerous studies show employees get more work done at home — due to factors like a quieter atmosphere, autonomy and privacy — many of today’s remote workers forgo home offices in favor of co-working spaces and coffee shops. Let’s explore the three most popular remote work locations and what might work best for you based on your profession, personality and budget.
Option 1: Coffee shops
These cozy, ambient spaces are no longer just for students cramming for exams. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of coffee shops in the U.S. steadily increased from 37,000 to 55,000. Furthermore, Starbucks is far from the only option. Nearly every major city now boasts a variety of coffee shops offering comfortable seating, abundant power outlets and diverse menu options. Unlike other remote work venues, coffee shops can be more unpredictable. But this is precisely what makes them so appealing for many.
Pros: Often aesthetically pleasing; doesn’t feel like work; variety of sights and sounds; tasty food and drink options; some networking opportunities
Cons: Variable Internet connectivity; sometimes noisy; limited privacy; limited seating
Ideal for: Introverted personalities who like to be around people, but don’t want to spend 10 minutes at the water cooler hearing about Johnny’s soccer game; cold and rainy days; breaking up stale routines; written work that doesn’t involve spoken communication.
Option 2: Co-working spaces
It’s hard to believe, but in 2005 there was only one official co-working space in existence in the U.S. According to the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, the number of coworking spaces in America skyrocketed up to 781 establishments by 2013, including locally owned “mom & pops” and larger chains such as WeWork.
Today, most major U.S. cities offer a variety of co-working options, with new ones popping up every week. Though varying in style from hipster-chic to buttoned-up traditional, most offer open floor plans, WiFi and basic kitchen amenities. Providing more structure than coffee shops and “the feeling” of co-workers, these collaborative environments can feel like the best of both worlds.
Typical payment options include annual memberships, monthly memberships, drop-in rates and punch-cards. Costs vary drastically city to city and within cities. For example a typical co-working space in New York City starts around $350 a month, while a comparable space in San Antonio charges a mere $50 per month (not typical, but awesome when you can find it).
Pros: Ample opportunities for networking (especially for meeting new clients if you’re a freelancer); psychologically motivating (sometimes it’s easier to work when everyone around you is too); available conference rooms, ideal for conducting in-person or video calls with tools like Highfive; dependable Internet connectivity
Cons: More costly than working at home or in a coffee shop (especially, if you purchase a pass and don’t use it); can sometimes feel too quiet; possibly longer commutes
Ideal for: Those who crave the discipline, structure and familiarity of a “regular” office setting; extroverted personalities who want more socialization; professions that require the use of bigger screens (i.e. many coworking spaces have desktops for designers and programmers); remote workers who require conference facilities
Pro tips: Utilize the fridge and microwave by packing your own lunch; look into getting a private office space for an extra fee; bring your preferred exercise equipment for a midday break
Option 3: Home offices
Do you work in your pajamas all day?
It’s perhaps the most common question posed by “the uninitiated.” Of course, the reality is far from the dreamy vision of slippers, coffee and couch dwelling! Most home-working professionals invest in a dedicated office space — and pants.
Though data shows that those working from home are more likely to sneak extraneous activities into their days (i.e. trips to Target, watching Netflix, an afternoon cocktail), a Stanford University study found home-workers are still more productive than their office-dwelling peers.
Perhaps, one of the greatest advantages to working from home is being able to shape your space. Numerous studies have shown environment greatly impacts mood, which affects productivity. Environmental hacks that have been proven effective include working in natural light, being around plants and listening to ambient music.
Pros: Freedom to decorate your own workspace; flexibility to switch between work and personal tasks; save costs on eating out; reliable Internet connectivity; no “dress code; substantial privacy; no commute
Cons: Increased possibility for distraction; increased possibility for loneliness; can become monotonous
Ideal for: Professions involving significant phone interaction (i.e. customer service reps, consultants, coaches); professions requiring large computer screens; working parents with young children
Pro tips: Follow a consistent work schedule, even though you’re working from home; plan midday meals ahead of time for convenience; use a video conferencing solution to curb loneliness and get face-to-face interaction with coworkers and friends
This article is titled “How to choose your best remote work location” for a reason — there is NO perfect work location! But the best way to create your ideal situation is to experiment by dedicating a week’s worth of time to each of the above options. You may find an obvious choice or you may prefer a mixture of all three.
The most important thing? Enjoy the flexibility that remote work provides.
For more on mastering remote work, check out our piece on how to stay connected while working remotely.