You’re in the office two days a week, but where should you toil the rest of the time? For many without a home office, staying in isn’t a great answer: perhaps you share that front room with four roommates, you have toddlers roaming, or you just desperately need a change of scene after 18 months in the same place.
Don’t stress. You have options—and not just coffee shops. That said, regardless of where you live, there’s a neighborhood café that would be grateful for your business, so long as you don’t mind shelling out for repeated flat whites, so perhaps embrace the cliché. Brits have an added option, with local coffee-and-lunch chains Pret and Leon both offering £20-per-month subscriptions for all the barista-made creations you can drink in 30-minute increments; they can be a cheap and easy way to stay caffeinated while typing away from home. Either way, remember to get the code for the loo when you order your drink.
But if you’re tired of cafés, you do have other options. As I’m based in London, these recommendations may skew a bit that way, but consider the following suggestions as inspiration to search out local, and probably cheaper, options wherever you call home.
Find a Different Kind of Coworking Space
Let’s get this one out of the way first. Coworking spaces have survived lockdown, with WeWork going public via a SPAC on October 21. WeWork has 56 locations across the UK and more than 250 in the US—including in department stores, though they’re centered in big cities such as London and New York, as well as offices in Australia, South Africa, and beyond. An “all access” pass to a hot desk at multiple locations costs £299/$299 a month, though day passes are also available. There are other options for those who need extra flexibility. In New York, coworking spaces such as Bat Haus offer a few days a week or a set number of hours a month for half of what WeWork charges, while memberships at coworking networks such as Optix and Croissant can be budget ways of finding a desk where and when you need it.
Big brands like WeWork and its rivals aside, odds are your neighborhood has a community coworking space that’s much cheaper, though it may have more restricted hours and fewer features.
The The Trampery, which is right by where I live, has desks for £150 a month, a nearby climbing wall inexplicably has hot desks for as little as £90 a month, and a local community center has flexible coworking from £70 a month for a hot desk one day a week or a dedicated desk for £200.
Have a wander on Google Maps; someone near where you live is willing to let you pay to work at a desk in their building, and they’ll probably include free tea and coffee, too.
Refamiliarize Yourself With Your Local Library
Looking for a quiet desk to work at now and then? Hit up your local library, the original and free coworking space. Many have dedicated desks and study rooms—more than a third across the US do this—and they all have free Wi-Fi; some even host business clinics and workshops. Many won’t let you bring coffee in with you, and are better used as a quiet place for focused work rather than a series of Zoom meetings, but they cost nothing and—this is a fact that never fails to astound me—will also let you take home books for free.
You’re not limited to community libraries, either. University libraries can be a good option, if they’re open to locals as well as students, while museums and galleries often have reading rooms, though you may need to register first. Some libraries even have paid-for coworking spaces at relatively low prices; one in Richmond, London, is £115 a month for locals, another in Westminster is £95 a month for a hot desk. In Florida, the Miami-Dade library system not only has bookable coworking spaces but a makerspace complete with 3D printers, too.
Get a Museum Membership
Museums, galleries, and other arts venues are full of cafés and lounges for working, usually with free Wi-Fi. If you want to avoid the throngs of tourists—and give a little financial support back to such places—memberships not only get you free tickets, prebooking for major shows, and discounts at the gift shop, but in the UK also often include a private members’ room, though this is less common in the US.
Such rooms are usually just a private café or bar, but some, such as the Members’ Reading Room at the British Museum, are designed to be used as study spaces. The price for a bit of quiet is usually less annually than a coworking hot desk will set you back for just a month, and you get to see some art while you're at it.
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Memberships aren’t a must-have, though. The Barbican in London is empty during the day, with plenty of comfortable seating and free Wi-Fi, while the Southbank Centre has ample space to park yourself for a few hours. Generally, seek out smaller museums and galleries, as they’re less likely to attract throngs of tourists.
Check Into a Hotel
Tired of working from home? Try working from a hotel! Booking a room by the day or hour may sound a bit … like a different type of work, but back when none of us could travel, hotels came up with a clever way to use their empty rooms: rent them to people tired of tapping away at their laptops from home.
Hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Accor offer day-use rates during office hours, letting you finally use the in-room desk for work rather than a flat surface to dump your luggage, while individual hotels offer day-rates that include a place to work as well as access to pools and other amenities—one in LA even includes turntables and a selection of vinyl.
Others, including Village Hotels, have coworking memberships that include access to amenities such as gyms, while posh London hotel the Athenaeum has a monthly lounge-based hot desking membership for £300. The prices are usually higher than a day in a coworking space, but you’ll get a private room with bathroom, charging points, room service, and have a bed for a post-lunch nap. Apps such as DayUse, AndCo, or Spacemize will help find working from hotel options near you.
Other hotels freed up space in their lounges and restaurants for workers, and though some of those offers have sadly disappeared from websites now that lockdowns have eased, there are still deals to be had. The Bankside Hotel in London, for example, has a £20 day pass that includes working in the lounge, Wi-Fi, three coffees or teas, and lunch.
Go to the Pub
As an alternative to cafés, plenty of pubs and restaurants are happy for you to sit with your laptop for hours during dead times, as you’ll be shelling out for coffee all day and lunch, an idea London-based pub chain Fuller’s has actively encouraged during the pandemic, while Young's pubs have three- and four-hour "Work from the Pub" table bookings for a set price (£10 to £15), which includes unlimited hot drinks and lunch.
Back in the UK, BrewDog has its Desk Dog bookings for £7 a day at limited locations, offering a place to work from opening until 5 pm, with a pint of IPA included at the end of the day—not a bad motivation to get out of the house.
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