As a former digital nomad, no matter where in the world I am, I need a real place to work. While the location independent lifestyle enables us to be free of geography, working on a computer all day still provides a number of constraints if we need to have a productive workday. Balancing a laptop in a hammock and other terrible digital nomad tropes don’t work for me. As a result, I’ve been in all types of cafes and coworking spaces around the world, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, to Dubai.
Remote work is still work.
Here is what separates the good coworking spaces from the bad.
A comfortable desk chair
I am paying you money for a work space. I want a nice desk chair. After all, I am going to be sitting in it all day. Make it nicer than what I have at home…considerably nicer. I realize that this can be a pretty formidable upfront expense, but I have switched coworking facilities for this reason.
Lots and lots of accessible plugs
This should go without saying, but it doesn’t always. The last thing I want is to crawl under a bank of tables where other people are working, trying to navigate the power adapter cable through a sea of legs to find the lone surge protector. Make this easy. Ideally installed at desk level so I don’t have to go desk diving.
Have an internet connection that remains high speed, even if the space is full. T1, T3, T-1000…I don’t care. It’s incredibly annoying to have your workflow interrupted because the office that you pay money to use doesn’t have the infrastructure to support its users.
Only 1 space I have ever worked in, Oficio in Boston, has this option. At a number of the community desk spaces, they have external monitor stations. You sit down, plug in, and boom! Huge screen real estate. For a designer who constantly is working on a laptop screen, this is an amazing luxury. Note to coworking spaces: this particular space doesn’t charge for external monitor use, but I WOULD PAY FOR THIS if you decided to charge. Real Money. This is an upsell I can believe in.
I have run into this problem in a few spaces. Often times, the space has hardwood or tile floors and relatively blank walls, leaving nothing to absorb sound. When I have to take a phone call, I feel like my voice is powering through the room. It makes me self conscious, which is not how I want to feel when talking to clients. On the flip side, there is always a guy in this space who is on the phone for a majority of the day. He is loud and he doesn’t give a fuck if you know the intimate details of his business/sex life. Unless you have some serious noise canceling in your headphones, this will drive you insane. WeWork is possible the worst offender.
A Host who makes introductions
I have worked in many spaces, sometimes for a few days, other times for a few months, and this rarely happens. Sometimes they have networking events, but often times you’re left to your own devices. For outwardly social people, this isn’t much of a problem, but often times people end up clustering with the people they already know. But even beyond these events, the host of the space should know exactly what the people who work there do for a living and make mutually beneficial introductions. There is a huge benefit to this. Not only will it facilitate community, but who knows? Maybe 2 of the people you introduce will strike up a huge deal, or build the next Facebook, and you and your space will be the nexus point. There is a huge amount of influence that comes from putting people together.
Most of the spaces I have worked in have a number of these factors down. The key takeaway here: make this experience something I can’t get at home.