Ever since I joined the workforce, I’ve always been working remote. Normally, at home, in the Bay, I have a little desk setup in my room but for the last four weeks I’ve been living in a closet in Manhattan that had a sub-optimal office setup. I’ve been going out everyday to find a nice spot to work from.
Whats the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a place to do work?
Opening the door he was met with a low din of human voices, espresso grinders whirring away, and the hiss of milk being foamed for a fresh cappuccino. The smell of coffee beckoned him down the long wooden hall into the large spacious atrium. Built into the walls on either side were wooden bars where a variety of stylish twenty something office workers huddled on their macbooks. The centerpiece of the room contained two aging brown leather couches, meant to evoke a living room vibe. Spiraling outward from the couches were small two person tables, perfect for a coffee chat, but most were only occupied by single remote office worker who had likely been at that same desk since coming in for their morning coffee at 9AM.
Yes, it’s true, most coffee shops do have free WiFi and ample seating. The issue is that you’re competing with all the other local remote office workers who just need to find a trendy spot to do their work. In my experience, I might not be able to find a seat when I first come in, so I stand around awkwardly waiting while my coffee gets cold.
Since the pandemic and the proliferation of remote work, many cafes have begun to adopt a full or partial “no laptops” rule. For good reason too, because people who work at coffee shops stay there way too long. These remote workers take can take up a table for 4-5 hours at a time, maybe staying the whole day. They take up space that might otherwise go to local neighbors who just want a place to hang out, to two new co-workers on an informal coffee chat, or to the Korean tourist couple who want to try the best coffee in Williamsburg. Coffee shops are meant as a place for community to gather.
So what is the best place for remote work in 2023? Think back, where did you like to go to study in college?
Like a castle tower, the spire of the Jefferson Market branch towered above him. He opened the old oak double doors to step into the coolness of the old stone castle. To his right a spiral staircase snaked in two directions, up into the spire and down into the dungeon. In the main reading room, natural light filtered in from the large mosaic windows. He was greeted by the smell of old paper from the books, sitting on the shelves that ringed around the room. A variety of local neighbors sat at three long tables, which gave the feeling of a grand feast, but it was dead silent besides the occasional tap of a laptop keyboard or the turn of a page.
Libraries come with a certain guarantee of quality provided by the municipal government. The desks are made with work in mind, the tables have builtin outlets to keep your laptop charged, the WiFi is fast, and the patrons are encouraged to make the least amount of sound possible. Desk space is also generally plentiful. It’s the perfect place to get deep work done.
The one issue I did run into with library work is that I couldn’t take meetings there. But it’s not a huge issue. Anytime I did have a meeting, I’d pop out to the nearest coffee shop, hop on their free WiFi, and leave just as quickly. No one complains if I don’t buy anything and I’m not worried about finding a seat since I know I won’t be there for long.
Lately, I’ve been missing that feeling of community that comes with having friends from all walks and ages of life. At the library, you can kind of get these vibes. There’s old people sitting next to bums, surfing on the web on the free computers; students studying for their upcoming exam; and nannies taking toddlers out for story time. It’s a nice diverse crowd and I got to see what normal New Yorkers look like, not just the trendy transplants who hang out in Brooklyn.
Give it a shot. If you’re a remote worker and you like to work from coffee shops, maybe go to your local library for a change. Maybe you’ll see a flier for an upcoming cool community event you’re interested in. Maybe you’ll find some fiction to pull you off your phone for a few hours. Maybe you’ll even have a picturesque meet-cute as you gaze across the room, locking eyes with your future lover. The possibilities are endless.