Ideas for workspaces please!
November 21, 2017 5:51 PM   Subscribe

#writers and #freenlancers: where, other than your favorite coffeeshops, do you feel comfortable to buy something small and then plop down for an hour or two of work?

My favorite coffeeshop has recently gotten really famous, so now there's never any seats. But rather than looking for a city-specific reccomendation, I wonder: where do you work, writers, academics, freelancers? I've been rotating through my favorite coffeeshops, and am ready for some new spots. Laundromats? Fastfood joints (can you just buy a beverage, though?)? Bars? creative and real ideas welcomed.

**and libraries, of course.
posted by redwaterman to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Trying to remember some of the places where I've been able to productively work for a number of hours:

- libraries (municipal, or college/university)
- empty university classrooms
- laundromats (which you can re-create anywhere using this fantastic laundromat noise generator)
- airports (lots of places to sit down, wifi, usually some electrical outlets, nobody cares if you stay in the same place for hours)
- city bus (as long as it's ~30 minutes or more)
- intercity travel (bus or train)
- small parks (one example: one of the café/garden at the Met Cloisters -- working there with a laptop feels particularly anachronistic and relaxing)
- any spot where you can gaze at water (river, ocean)
- rooftops / elevated spaces (one example in NYC: 55 Water Street; the High Line would work as well)
posted by vert canard at 6:08 PM on November 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

Hotel lobbies!
posted by theodolite at 6:15 PM on November 21, 2017 [6 favorites]

My local diner (which happens to have wi-fi, but I also recently realized that I could use my phone as a hotspot for quite a while without paying extra). I also like working in my car--I pull up next to a park by my library branch, so I can use their free wi-fi and look at trees.
posted by pinochiette at 6:19 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Museums - particularly if you have a membership, a free community membership or admission agreement (worth checking on), or a free museum. A museum membership can pay for itself this way, if you like the public cafe space and it has good wi-fi, you don't even need to buy anything and over the course of the year it's cheaper than a weekly latte.
posted by Miko at 6:30 PM on November 21, 2017 [8 favorites]

Here in Seattle, the King County law library is open the the public. It's quiet and serious, with lots of tables for working. Weekdays. Fluorescent lights. And you need to go thru the ground floor metal detector.

If you have a large university nearby, check out the smaller department libraries.

The big hospital near me has a Starbucks in a nice space with outdoor patio. There is no pressure to buy anything. Open very early and stays open until 1:30am weekdays. And free wifi.

Look for churches that hosts community cafes. There's one near me that open just two days per week. There is no pressure to buy anything, though I will put a couple bucks in the donation can.
posted by valannc at 6:46 PM on November 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely public library.

Also, IKEA. Ours has a seating area near the cafeteria that seems almost made for this. Free coffee if you're part of the (free) Family card program.

Also, if you have a place like Panera - sort of a coffee shop, but also a busy restaurant at mealtimes - go at off-meal hours and just get a drink or a bagel.
posted by raspberrE at 7:18 PM on November 21, 2017

I used to go to university food service locations, which were only busy at certain times of the day. There was also a student lounge that was open but unused during academic breaks and on the weekends.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:18 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

A bowling alley. Weird choice, I know. You'd think the noise would be a problem, but it kind of white-noises itself out.
posted by ctmf at 9:02 PM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I once saw a guy working on his dissertation in the lobby of a large movie theater during the day, eating popcorn at the same time. I thought this was a brilliant idea (if you like popcorn).
posted by cpatterson at 2:20 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is a small monthly expense an option? Most big cities and even many small towns have coworking spaces. Ours is $200/mo for 9-5 M-F access to a clean well-lit space with desks and plugs and WiFi and coffee, and a kitchen and bathroom. Costs more for 24-hour access. Prices can vary if you only want 3 days per week, for instance. Also, we have some big office buildings in town with some tiny office spaces that are surprisingly cheap. All depends on the town.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 5:21 AM on November 22, 2017

Yes to museums (but do drop a small donation into the box on your way out if you haven't paid entry/ bought something on the premises), but also cinema and theatre lobbies are places I like to hang out.

Here in London we also have a lot of free form indoor space in large performance and service venues like the Southbank Centre and the Barbican, where you can find a cosy seat and watch the world go by.

Are there any large arenas near you that might have public areas open between performances?
posted by freya_lamb at 5:53 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mall food court outside of prime time
posted by crazycanuck at 8:00 AM on November 22, 2017

Seconding hotel lobbies, especially hotels that cater to business travelers, which are likely to have free wifi, comfortable seating (potentially with various nooks and corners to customize your level of quiet), and a coffee shop, and are usually neither crowded nor deserted.
posted by oblique red at 8:33 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bars during off-hours are great. I used to do a whole stack of grading there. The waitress loved having a quiet table that didn't ask for much.

If there are any non-dead malls near you, most of them have some public seating and the people watching is fun. I always thought the Mall of America sounded cozy for this.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:34 AM on November 22, 2017

Observation decks on tall buildings can sometimes 1) be cheap or free, 2) have a coffee stand, and 3) be pretty quiet. I'm thinking Columbia Seafirst in Seattle (which is probably not called that anymore) or Tokyo Metro Government building, not Space Needle, Tokyo SkyTree, or Empire State Building. Bonus: feeling like a big shot in a skyscraper office.
posted by ctmf at 12:05 PM on November 22, 2017

Depending on where you are, look into "privately owned public spaces" -- NYC and San Francisco definitely have them. They're open to the public by law, and some of them -- the rooftops and atriums especially, are protected from the elements, underused, and intentionally obfuscated. So you have to assert your desire to enter the space but then they have to leave you alone.

I used to have to kill two hours at a time in a spot where the only real place to go sit was the Target cafe and the atmosphere didn't do much for me but it wasn't terrible. So Target can go alongside Ikea on the spots where really no one is going to bother you for a long time.

I've also had good luck with exchanging some advice for a desk. I used to bring my laptop to my friend's bike shop and just plop down. I don't remember discussing it, but it was kind of a hangout spot so I'd show up with my laptop and just work. Sometimes at the register, basically, and then I'd also ring people up since I was there. Sometimes in the back office. I had rebuilt his website for him and would troubleshoot his computers so I think we were happy with the trade. More recently I've reached out to colleagues or co-conspirators when I'm going to visit a town and often folks are willing to clear a desk for me for a few days in exchange for having me around. Or if I make lunch plans with someone while I'm on the road I'll also ask if they also have space where I can work for the rest of the afternoon.

+ 1 to hotel lobbies and bars in the afternoon
posted by amandabee at 2:12 PM on November 22, 2017

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