As a location independent individual, it’s tricky to answer the following question: where do you work? Even as a remote/location independent worker, the answer here isn’t just ‘anywhere’: there are clearly defined places and spaces which I reserve exclusively for work (co-working spaces) and not-work (comedy clubs).
Yet most public spaces tend to sit somewhere in between, and alongside my mood and the task at hand, can play a huge role in driving my productivity and impacting my workflow. For me, it isn’t quite just a case of working anywhere – my working environments are often as minutely strategised as my schedule.
I’m based in London so my options are all pretty urban-centric. Saying that, few people get a lot done on the beach because of sun glare, sand and cocktails; so don’t believe what you see on Instagram.
I prefer to work from home in the morning, and I’m often feeling insanely smug while I drink my latte and check emails and updates during rush hour. There is something extremely serene in opting out of the giant morning rat race, which generally involves sharing a disconnected almost-hour (feels-like-an-hour) with other disgruntled and distressed commuters. It’s only a small part of the day, but it impacts my day in a big way and can often leave me feeling stressed and anxious before 9am.
I might also work from home in the evenings and even into the night (after escaping the ‘crush-hour’ homecoming crew); but I’ll generally avoid working from home for the entire day. Not only because it offers me little room to move between my professional and personal life, but also because there is a part of me which still wishes to ensure my home remains my place of personal sanctuary, and therefore a place which is as separate as possible from the daily demands of my professional life.
Above all, sitting alone for hours on end leaves me feeling a little flat and lifeless: in direct opposition to the bustle of activity in the coffee shop, the steely silence of an empty home feels awkward and a little depressive.
I think most coffee shop workers would agree that the main allure (apart from the coffee) is what we would contemporary call ‘the vibe’. It’s like a gentle (hopefully), buzzing frisson in the background; a humdrum of activity, creativity and productivity that can help to set your own juices flowing. It’s like walking into the office without the monotony of the office.
Alongside this bustle of movement and energy comes a total sense of anonymity and a kind of blending-into-the-background which becomes extremely helpful when you’re trying to find your rhythm and feel in sync with your work.
More than in an office space surrounded by my team and colleagues, the public coffee shop gives me the right environment without the interruptions or distractions. This isn’t to say the distractions aren’t there – they definitely become less present with noise cancelling headphones – it’s just much easier for me to ignore chatter and coffee-machine whirring than it is to ignore an interesting and possibly work-related debate put forward by a colleague. And regardless of the relevance, if you’ve structured that time to deal with something else, anything outside of that task that draws you away becomes a distraction.
Unsurprisingly, independent coffee shops are where it’s all happening; so no big brand chains for me. I find them stressful, repetitive, uninspiring and lacking the kind of energy I’m looking for. London is host to a fine selection of something-coffee-shop hybrids anyway, so there is no need to keep things stale: bookshop-coffee-shop, bar-coffee-shop, library-coffee-shop, museum-coffee-shop, home-coffee-shop, greenhouse-coffee-shop… the list is endless.
The Hub of the Unconventional
There are few places in London that are more quiet, cosy and well-connected than pubs at midday. Other than libraries, which are often busy and crammed with nervous looking post-grads.
These two locales might be a strange pairing, but both offer me similar benefits. They’re spacious and therefore filled with nooks and crannies; and can combine in perfect quantities the feeling of being at home whilst also being part of the activity and energy of a public place.
On top of all the perks, pubs are one of the few public places where you can work comfortably well after 10pm. I’d definitely recommend local pubs for this; mainstream popular pubs lack the relative calm which is necessary to counterbalance the fact that you are, indeed, working in a public drinking establishment, and the likelihood of a very drunk person approaching you and asking ‘what’r’ye’doin’ are, well, high.
For the most part, taking calls in a pub before 6pm works fine for me; anytime after and the place becomes a little unworkable with dim lighting and relatively loud music that is totally out of your control.
Don’t take calls in libraries.
And libraries, albeit exquisite spaces of nocturnal worship, are unfortunately only open until 8pm in London, and 9pm for a very few.
For the Nocturnally Creative
By this point it probably goes without saying that when it comes to co-working spaces, I prefer 24 hour access as this feels the most natural fit for my working style. As well as offering me more opportunities to create different working environments, it gives me a sense of having greater job control, as well as flexibility.
In its rudimentary form location independence to me means I’m pretty much available to work 24 hours a day. This doesn’t mean I do work 24 hours a day; it simply means that without the rigidness of the time-constrained office day, I feel able to choose any portion of those 24 hours to complete my work and fulfil my responsibilities; as well as give myself time to be creative and try new ideas.
At the end of the day…
I have to confess, I am not a fan of rituals and habits. My life is framed by a very loose routine. And I run much more productively and creatively if I feel free to pick up and head off wherever it is I need to go.
I find working in 3 – 4 hour blocks on one specific task works well for me. I’ll then break up that time (and the task) by moving to a different space and I’ll either walk, drive or take the tube to my next destination.
I love seeing and meeting new places and faces and get a huge sense of value out of experiencing people in their activity and their own bustle. When I spend the day moving in a mass of human energy I’m constantly reminded of The Great Gatsby, when Nick Carraway is looking out of the window of the apartment in Manhattan, ‘…looking up and wondering, I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.’
In my hunt for new experiences, people and places, I try my best to be infinitely more enchanted and inspired than repelled.