Dipping toes into coworking

As George RR Martin would have put it if his kids were in public school: Summer’s coming. (“A Song of Bored and Cranky”) This Summer, I plan to try to use some coworking spaces to get the heck out of the house and away from the kids for a couple of days a week.

So far, I’ve tried out “eat-working” (Starbucks, Panera, Einsteins), which really doesn’t offer the kind of long-term desk situation I’m looking for, “public-working” at the library, which had iffy chairs and tables and intermittent Internet, and (so far) one commercial day trial, which had great desks, horrible chairs, nice ambience, but a no-talking policy which meant I couldn’t conference, use my phone, or use Siri except by stepping outside. (And absolutely no way to turn up the iTunes volume and shout it out, shout it out loud…)

If you’ve coworked and have any recommendations for what I should be looking for in a good coworking space, please share. I’m not exactly looking for place recommendations (unless you have specific ones to mention) but more to put together a list for myself of what makes a good coworking environment so I can better evaluate what I”m looking at before committing to any monthly or longer contract. I’d appreciate any advice you have to offer.

I’m looking for something fairly local, inexpensive, with good business-level WiFi, comfortable business-level chairs and desks (I can bring in my own lumbar cushion and footstool if needed), safe area, clean bathrooms, nearby shops, a microwave, easy in-and-out, and  daylockers of some sort so I don’t have to carry absolutely everything in and out with me every time I hit the bathroom or go to lunch. I’d also like to be surrounded more by tech folk than marketing folk but I recognize that’s not going to be something I can control.

I will say that while I was remarkably productive on my days out, I was productive in all the wrong ways: I zoomed through my correspondence. I’m now set up beautifully with my calendar and with “Things“. I got nothing done on actual development or real writing work. And I did nothing that needed phones, such as making appointments or checking in on projects. I also found it really hard to take breaks, stretch, and just do the “wander and think” thing.

What kind of work opportunities do you reserve for outside your office? And how do you adapt your workflow to small screens (I have the new MBP with me), strange places, and ergonomic limits?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

8 Comments

  • So, I haven’t tried official coworking, I’ve done the other varieties. Also, I include deck-working when it is nice out. As for adapting my routines, there is heavy use of Spaces and while I love the pure “retina experience” I end up turning up the resolution a little bit so that XCode is usable at all on just my rMBP screen (I have a 15″).

  • I tried a number of things like you. In the end, I got my own desk at a very cheap shared office. Normally these go for around €250 in The Netherlands. But this one skimps on luxuries such as carpet and clean toilets, and I have my own desk for €100 per month.

    Whenever I’m going to have a lengthy conversation and I don’t need my laptop, I do step outside though. Usually there’s between 3 and 5 people, which is personally my maximum otherwise the noise level increases.

    I immediately got my own monitor, a 22″ Dell thing with a decent resolution. There’s crappy WiFi so I talked to the local sysadmin and laid my own wired connection.

  • I’ve worked freelance for about 8 years w/ a mix of places. I have several coffee shops and cafes around me that work for different types of days. I’m at one right now.

    Coffee shops can be good, but like you said you have to look for seating and other setup like bathrooms. Cafes can be better b/c they have slower periods where it’s quieter (for you) and may not affect having calls.

    Libraries vary too. They’re usually quiet and sometimes have study rooms that can be really good.

    All have varied wifi.

    I don’t think there’s a solid one-fits-all-solution other than paid co-working places.

    The best option is to find a local company that would let you drop in. Or a friend w/o kids. Maybe bring coffee or buy lunch or something.

    My problem w/ the paid places is unless you want to drop $200+/month, it’s no better than a coffee shop. I can go to a coffee shop and spend $5-$10+ for a loud place, no guaranteed desk/table/chair, loud, etc.

    Earbuds keep me focused – I am now adept to ignoring people walking around me. Stand and stretch now and then. Set it up that you can code as soon as you get there – put off calls for a couple hours then pack up, walk around and do the calls in motion (assuming you’re somewhere you can walk – if not, drive somewhere, just drive, sit in the car or similar). Eat. Repeat.

    Another option is: all of the above. Mix it up. Of course, it depends on the day. And you can’t predict how it will go all the time: calls pop up on a day you picked the loud place.

    There’s a decent number of places around me w/ tech work that I can introduce myself to (“I’m an iOS dev in the area and wondered what y’all do…”). 9/10 times they offer a place to sit if I’m ever in the area. I rarely do it in more than a couple of places (friends’ places) but it’s a good/easy option.

    As w/ a lot of things, you have to want it to work – see the pros and value the good points. If you think it’s going to be like home but w/o kids, nope.

  • You might want to specify where you are looking for this — that is, what locality?

  • My local co-working space has phone rooms, which I really like. They’re basically a closet with a desk and chair but they have sound proofing material on the walls and an ethernet drop which make them really good for phone calls and video calls.

  • A Things user. OK. Thoughts on this? I don’t. And I work at home as little as possible.And if I do I usually go to a coworking space in the neighbourhood. As long as it is super silent I can get some work done but as soon as people come in that starts making phone calls etcetera I’m out of there.
    Being in a team with a couple of folks that need to learn the ropes and me being a hands-on kind of person it does not work for me. So off-site work if any is writing or doing a long stretch of coding that needs to be done solitary. You have an MBP? Just crank it up to the max resolution it has. Actually the resolution a 15″ MBPr has is pretty good. Good enough to do some serious development.

  • My coworking space had an option for private offices. I’ve had a private office for the past 3.5 years, and I love it. It costs more than being in the coworking room, but I also don’t have to worry about bothering anyone when I’m on the phone or on a conference call. I suggest trying to find someone else that wants a coworking space and splitting the cost of an office.

  • OK, I’ll admit this one is a little unorthodox. I had a huge workload this winter–learning iOS… so I simply went with my significant other to Thailand, rented a very nice apartment, and have been working without interruption each day. There are no distractions and we have lots of time to make good progress. It’s also nice that everything here costs 1/2-1/10th the price of NY, and we haven’t seen a single crime as of yet, since November.

    In general I really appreciate the privacy of my own place, if it’s possible. you probably wouldn’t necessarily have to pay as much as a coworking space costs and you could lock it up tight when you’re away.

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