When I worked in an office full of people, it was easy to get distracted by chatting co-workers, frequent meetings and the latest workplace drama. Sometimes, finding time to actually get my work done was a challenge. Then, when I started working from a home office in 2001 — first as a remote staff writer and editor, and later when I started my freelance writing business — I had the opposite problem: There was plenty of quiet time to get work done and lots of flexibility, but nobody to chat with at the water cooler when I needed a break. So I searched for something in the middle. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find it — a corner coffee shop or deli with free Wi-Fi faded the blues of working alone, but didn’t require an ongoing commitment.
When I was new at working from home, Lenny’s at 74th Street and Columbus in Manhattan was my favorite spot to be part of the bustle, blend in with other workers, eat some (really delicious) food and still get some work done. These days, back in my hometown of Florence, Ala., I’ve kept up my routine: I frequent places like Rivertown Coffee Company, a corner coffee shop with good music, caffeine and a tasty menu, along with the promise of a little conversation with familiar faces I might see while I’m there.
I’m not alone in seeking my own little “office” away from the office; and according to Urban Dictionary, there’s even a word for it: coffice — “a coffee shop one makes into an office where non-coffee-shop work is performed.” In fact, the website and soon-to-be mobile app, Coffices Near Me, helps people find the best coffices near them, and traveling freelance writer Elisabeth Daniels recently launched Coffice Girl, a Facebook page that chronicles her visits to great coffices across the country.
Now, I know there’s a Starbucks on every corner in most cities, and many people have hit their saturation point with coffee shops. And with so many independent, home-based workers, there are lots of trendy co-working spaces now available — but they require long-term commitments, and for me, flexibility is the most valuable perk of my job as a freelance writer. In my case, a simple coffee shop, bookstore or deli still meets my needs.
Of course, there are drawbacks to the coffice, too. There are groups of really loud talkers who take the noise level to an uncomfortable place. There are people who conduct job interviews or other HR-type confrontations at the next table, and you’re privvy to private conversations you really didn’t want to hear. But the best coffices offer just what an independent worker needs when traveling or on those days when the home office just isn’t working. Here’s what I love about a great coffice:
Socialization. Even though I’m usually hiding behind my computer while I’m working at a coffee shop or bookstore, some days it’s nice to escape the solitude of my home office and just be part of the crowd. And when a good friend or acquaintance happens to come in, of course I’ll take a break to chat.
Sustenance. Sometimes I simply need a little good food or drink to get my creative juices flowing. Of course, I can (and do) cook at home, but going out to lunch with co-workers was a staple in my previous (office) life, so enjoying good food that I didn’t prepare myself, and getting work done at the same time, just makes for a happier day.
Surroundings. Working from a home office has become common, and is even a goal for lots of people. And while I love the freedom of working from home, the truth is that some days, cabin fever sets in. On those days, I still need Wi-Fi to stay in front of my deadlines, but just need new surroundings. That’s when a cozy little coffee shop or bookstore or deli can be just what I’m looking for.
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