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Where to Work? Home vs Cafe vs Co-Working Space

So you’re looking for a place to make the magic happen.

Somewhere to work on your business, move the ball forward, and be MASSIVELY productive.

Where should you go?

Do you stay home in your apartment or house? It’s certainly convenient.

Do you crash the local cafe? They’re in no short supply of caffeine…

Or do you hit-up a co-working space? It feels more professional and you’re almost guaranteed free coffee and high-speed wifi.

Since leaving my full-time job earlier this year, I’ve worked in all three environments and have noticed subtle but important nuances that can make or break my productivity and focus.

I’ve broken it down for you below and I hope this helps guide you in figuring out where you’re going to post up.

Where to Work? Home vs Cafe vs Co-Working Space

 

Along with a brief description of each environment, this guide includes a breakdown of the following items:

  • Convenience: The faster you get working the faster you can take action on your business.
  • Cost: Not all working environments are equally priced.
  • Internet: This is a must-have for any working environment, but some connections are better than others.
  • Focus-factor: This is a rough estimation of your ability to focus and avoid distraction.
  • Amenities: All of the environments below have some amenities, but some come better equipped than others.

Ultimately, you’re going to need to consider your constraints and figure out what works for you.

You might try one working environment for a week or two and then try another one for a couple weeks and see which you prefer.

Most co-working places have a low-cost month-to-month option that you might consider, or you could see if they’ll let you work there for free for a week.

1. Working at Home

My desk

My home office

When you’re working from home you’ve got one really big thing going for you: your travel time to the office is virtually 0 minutes.

If you get into a good routine, a home office can add hours to your daily productivity thanks to time saved that would otherwise have been spent driving, taking public transportation, going somewhere to get food, or getting set up and comfortable (e.g., finding an outlet in a cafe, finding the best seat for wifi strength, etc.).

But these benefits come with a huge potential downside: you’re at home.

Ironically, the home advantage is a double-edged sword that can turn into your greatest disadvantage.

Home – whether you have an apartment, room, condo, or otherwise – is a mental concept that we tend to associate with comfort and safety.

Because we tend to set up our living spaces for “creature comforts” and to accommodate our desire for convenience, you may find yourself distracted by the urge to grab a snack, watch TV, play games, or engage in other comfort/entertainment-related activities.

And even if you manage to avoid these distractions, you may find yourself having a hard time getting into the right mindset to be productive.

Ultimately, if you’re going to work from home, make sure to get into a routine that you stick to.

I highly recommend changing into work clothes, or at least not your comfy “just hanging out” clothes.

Setting aside a specific room or corner where you always work can also help.

Working From Home Review

  • Convenience: No commute. No hauling a laptop around. No need to bring or buy food.
  • Cost: You’re already paying for your place. You have wifi. You have food. No travel costs.
  • Internet: Assuming you have wifi at home you’re all set.
  • Focus-factor: Depending on your routine, your home environment, and your ability to eliminate distractions, this could be absolutely terrible or totally fine.
  • Amenities: Bathroom, food, and drink all included. Nothing is free, but you have it all already.

2. Working From a Cafe

Working from Panera

My Panera office

Over the past couple decades cafes have become almost as ubiquitous as cell phones.

When I spent 3 months living in Taiwan during high school, I would often ask strangers for recommendations on a good place to grab a bite to eat and (sadly) I was often pointed towards the nearest Starbucks.

This happened when I was in the capital Taipei, as well as when I was driving around the southern part of the island.

These days, it’s not uncommon to see two cafes on the same intersection and for both of them to be equally busy.

With this relative abundance of cafe options to choose from (Starbucks, Panera, Dunkin’, Peet’s, Seattle’s Best, Tully’s, McCafe, Coffee Beanery, Caribou Coffee, LavAzza, Tim Horton’s… not even considering the countless independent businesses) it’s easy to drop in, grab a seat, and hop on the (typically free) wifi connection.

The typical complaints I hear from friends and peers who are daily cafe hustlin’ is that wifi can sometimes be slow, especially when the cafe is crowded.

In my own experience, I usually feel obligated to buy something, which means that I walk in and buy a coffee (if not also a snack) before sitting down, and then get up and buy a refill or tea or something else to sip on a couple hours later, and maybe once or twice more before I leave for the day.

This was a bigger problem when I first started at cafes but I’ve since become more comfortable with buying one beverage like a hot tea and then refilling it with hot water (and secretly using my own tea bags from home).

Bathroom and internet quality vary from place to place, so try different cafes until you find a good fit. Before you know it you’ll find yourself walking into cafes and immediately scanning for outlets Jason Bourne style.

Jason Bourne knows where the outlets are

“I come in here and the first thing I’m doing is I’m catching the sight lines and looking for an outlet”

Working From a Cafe Review

  • Convenience: You might have to hop on a bus or your bike, but cafes are everywhere. Bring your own food or pay for it.
  • Cost: Cheap. Wifi is usually free, but you may feel obligated (or may be required) to purchase something. Can typically get by with a single purchase per day.
  • Internet: Usually high-speed but can be slow if there are a lot of people on devices. Some cafes have router issues and have to restart them occasionally.
  • Focus-factor: It can be distracting having people coming and going around you, but if you can find a corner or a seat facing away from people you’ll be in good shape. Drown out the background noise by putting on headphones and cranking up the tunes.
  • Amenities: Usually have a bathroom you can use (though it may not be super clean) and you can purchase food or drink if you want it.

3. Working From a Co-Working Space

My WeWork Office

My WeWork office

Looking for something more professional?

Need to have access to book-able conference rooms?

Want private space for taking calls or working with colleagues?

Consider one of the many options for co-working spaces.

These spaces were born out of San Francisco in the early 2000’s and are now common in most major (and sometimes less major) cities all around the world.

WeWork, Impact Hub, Hacker Lab, Workbar, Spark Labs, Regus, Urban Station, The Surf Office, Workplace One… Google your city and “coworking space” and you’re bound to find something (and if not… new business idea?)

Co-working spaces tend to have fast and reliable wifi, free coffee (and sometimes beer) and the option to book conference rooms – which can be a huge plus if you regularly host in-person meetings.

The major draw-back here is cost.

When working from home, you’re just paying for what you’d pay for anyways, and when working from a cafe, you might feel pressured to buy a coffee or snack but you’re probably not spending on much else.

But at a co-working space, you’re looking at a monthly fee that might range from $100/month to $700/month depending on whether you’re opting for a seat at a table (usually pretty cheap) or a private room with a desk, chair, and filing cabinet (the bigger the room, the bigger the bill).

If you’re a solopreneur you can probably get by with a seat at a table, sometimes referred to as a hotseat. You just show up and grab an empty seat. Of course, you’re not guaranteed the same spot every time.

Or you can pay a little more for a dedicated spot, or a little more yet for a small office.

Pro-tip: If you’re on the fence about paying for a co-working space, see if you can work for a week (or at least a day or two) for free to try it out before you make the commitment. And if that doesn’t work, see if there are any free events taking place at the co-working space which you could attend — once you’re there, hang out and do some work so you can get a sense of the place.

One of the biggest selling points of a co-working space is the “community.”

For some people, having access to other like-minded folks is a plus.

Being surrounded by hustlers and hackers, marketers and salespeople, as well as coders and designers, can be a great benefit if you actually need help and you take advantage of it.

But despite the commonly touted events and workshops that co-working spaces like to offer, the onus of responsibility is still on you to meet, befriend people, and leverage those relationships.

If you just need an internet connection, an outlet, and a place to focus, then don’t let yourself get too caught up in the benefits of being a part of the co-working community.

Again, it can be useful, but it might not be. It depends on your circumstances.

Working From a Co-Working Space Review

  • Convenience: Similar to a cafe, you’ll need to get to the place and you’ll need to bring your own food (they might have fridges) or purchase it somewhere.
  • Cost: Wide range of price options. Expect at least $100/month for a seat at a table.
  • Internet: Fast and reliable.
  • Focus-factor: Similar to a cafe, it can be distracting if you pay attention to all the people around you.
  • Amenities: Free coffee, free tea, free wifi, sometimes free beer, and clean bathrooms are all common.

And that’s my comparison of working from home, working from a cafe, and working from a co-working space.

Personally, I lean towards working from home if I have the place to myself, otherwise I work from a cafe.

Though I’ve recently been working from a co-working space, but only because someone else is footing the monthly membership fee.

I hope this was helpful in deciding where to work.

Where do you work?

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