Where to Work Remotely

If anything good came from COVID19 – it’s remote work. Suddenly thousands of us are now doing what management said “can’t be done“. Remote work is the new normal. Everyone’s a digital nomad (or at least could be).

Now that you can work anywhere the question is: where should you work?

You can work remotely from:

  • Cafés
  • Outside
  • Libraries
  • Coworking Spaces
  • Home

Choosing a Remote Work Location

The goal is to find a location which is as conducive to productivity as possible. Before going anywhere consider your task for the day (what you do) and your personal working/learning style (how you do work). Your specific title doesn’t really mean much in the grand scheme of things. A lawyer could work from an airport café just as easily as a neurosurgeon. Only the task is relevant not the whole profession itself. Obviously surgery is unlikely to take place at an airport café but as both professions involve sending emails and making phone calls – perhaps those tasks could be done just about anywhere.

Myth: The Office Is Best

The office has few perks and many negatives. One perk is access to fast face-to-face communication with people who aren’t able to use modern technology. In the office meetings don’t start with “hello can you hear me? I can hear you, can you hear me?” but that’s not to say physical meetings aren’t better. They don’t always run on time. People turn up late. Talk too long. Forget agendas and so on. One of the very few perks is also a negative. Physical access to people can lead to interruptions and personality clashes due to lack of boundaries. You can’t just put a “do not disturb” sign on your desk.

Remote-friendly companies attract better employees. Companies which maintain strict office-only work limit their potential new-hires to driving distance from the office. An arbitrary way to select employees if you ask me!

Work Remotely from Cafés

Working from a Café in Helsinki, Finland. NB! The price of the coffee and juice is probably equivalent to a day’s membership at a co-working space if signed up for a longer period (like a month).

✈️ If you’re in transit (away on business, city trip, backpacking) cafés are ideal. If staying around for about a month join a coworking space. 💶 Frequently working out of a café can be expensive (more than the daily cost of a monthly coworking space pass). When you add up all the cups of coffee and pastries involved it’s expensive. 📖 The challenges around cafés concern laptops and security. If possible consider working from a café without a laptop. Use pen and paper instead, think creatively and plan strategically if work permits.

What a true Laptop Friendly Café looks like. Headed to a café? Use the Ritual App to order your coffee in advance.
Free Coffee on signup with this referral: https://bit.ly/RitualCoffeeApp

10 Remote Work Tips for Cafés:

  1. Check LaptopFriendly.co for Laptop Friendly Cafés.
  2. Ideal: 2+ levels, open plan, counter service, bigger the better. Toilets.
  3. Seating: inside, near power point, back to wall, avoid glare.
  4. Backup Gear: Phone Wi-Fi tethering & Bootable USB Linux for Drive backup.
  5. Security: backup everything when going to toilet.
  6. Environment: sometimes noisy, bring earphones.
  7. Time: short periods, up to 3 hours before peak times if possible.
  8. Equipment: power-bank or fully-charged laptop and phone.
  9. Schedule Downloads: download content to watch/listen to when offline later.
  10. Great for: short periods of work, easier tasks and if in transit or offline work.
Once my Macbook Pro Hard-drive failed completely. I used a bootable USB drive with Linux installed on it. I was able to then perform a range of generic office tasks like email, internet, google sheets and some basic applications. Without the bootable USB I would have been screwed. Linux is free but you can purchase USB sticks with Linux pre-installed. They work on Mac/Windows/Anything.

Work Remotely Outside

⛔ Working outside on a beach, drinking piña coladas? – It’s a common marketing theme. We’ve all seen those “digital nomad lifestyle” pictures. Realising this idea requires flexibility around when you work. Timing is everything. Here’s some ideas to balance outside time with remote work (but not necessarily at the same time):

  1. Relocate to Thailand, Bali, the Gold Coast or another attractive location.
  2. Work from a Hotel, an Airbnb or an apartment.
  3. Schedule your work hours in small but productive 3 hour blocks.
  4. Enjoy time outside (near your place of work) between working blocks of time.
  5. Be your own boss / freelancer / investor. See “testing the waters”

Working from yacht on the waters of pioneer bay in Australia is a bit of a stretch for the average office worker. Nothing’s impossible though. If you’re seriously looking for this kind of remote work flexibility you may need to pursue your own business which doesn’t require your physical presence for day-to-day operations. Not self employed? Consider moving to a location near your ideal outside-location and work from there across split 3+ hour shifts.

Work Remotely from Libraries

“Hack The Evening” Event at The Edge – State Library of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

Libraries have always been places of quiet, uninterrupted, focused work. Nowadays libraries (like the State Library of Queensland and Chermside’s Brisbane City Council Library) facilitate reading, writing and work through modern design, comforts (including cafés) as well as high speed internet. Libraries are peaceful, well-resourced places of thought which makes them ideal destinations for remote work in my book. The way libraries provide learning opportunities has evolved to include interesting workshops and events too. See “hack the evening” to get a feel for what’s on in Brisbane.

View from Queensland State Library, Brisbane: Australia.

Here’s the good about modern libraries for remote work:

  1. Nobody knows/cares if you’re working on studying. You’ll fit right in with your laptop.
  2. Cost: It’s free. No obligations attached to your stay.
  3. Internet: Free. Very reliable.
  4. Comfortable: Seating, air-con, café.
  5. Food/Drinks: Usually not allowed at your desk. You may need to stop for coffee.
  6. Private rooms available but book in advance.
  7. Phone Calls: Not permitted (at least loud conversation). Take it outside.
  8. Electricity: Power plugs available everywhere.
  9. Long Stay: Absolutely perfect for an entire day’s work.
  10. Learning: Workshops and courses compliment profession & provide community.

Not convinced? Here’s some examples of modern libraries for Remote Work:

Work Remotely from Coworking Spaces

Co-Working spaces are everywhere. WOTSO and Flockd in Australia, LIFT99 in Tallinn, Estonia, LIFT99 in Kyiv, Ukraine. Terminal in Tbilisi, Georgia, The Ministry in Southwark London, UK. It’s a thing now.

FLOCKD Coworking Space on the Gold Coast, Australia.

The first thing to know about coworking spaces is most give you a free first day. Keep that in mind if you’re travelling around. Second – monthly passes are a lot cheaper than day passes. So if you’re not travelling around consider getting a monthly pass. In some cases the cost can be comparable to a cup of coffee. Unlike cafés though you’re welcome to stay here as long as you want and you’ve got no obligation to keep purchasing coffee. Similar to modern libraries – they’ve got everything you could wish for but with a few extra comforts like the regular office. There’s a kitchen. You aren’t usually locked in certain times. Some allow 24 hour access and they allow food and drink. Even alcohol on occasions like networking days. Chances are you’ll feel the vibes in a co-working space. It’ll be more modern and comfortable than your regular office and without all the people you’d prefer to avoid.

Things to know about co-working spaces:

  1. Ask for a “trial day” – usually free with no strings attached. Ask indirectly.
  2. Monthly pass prices can be cheaper than working from cafés.
  3. Networking opportunities are often hosted on Fridays.
  4. High-speed Internet. Very reliable.
  5. Fun atmosphere. Casual. People mind their own business – literally.
  6. Expect mod cons like coffee machines, soda dispenser, TVs,
  7. Private rooms, booths, meeting rooms, various working spaces available.
Private booth at WOTSO, Chermside, Brisbane: Australia.

Coworking Space vs Library?

Coworking spaces have similar resources to modern libraries. Both have open spaces, desks, strong Wi-Fi and a variety of ‘break out’ areas. Some advantages coworking spaces have over libraries include:

  1. Hours: Open past 9 to 5. Important for international clients or project deadlines.
  2. Facilities: Kitchen, toaster, kettle, microwave, fridge. Food & drink allowed.
  3. Security: Members only + RFID cards.
  4. Rooms: Meeting rooms and private booths available. Limited scheduling required.
My Hot Desk at WOTSO, Chermside.

Membership dictates which desks are available to you. A basic membership entitles you to use any of the standard desks like the one above. There’s plenty of space for a MacBook Pro, a Microsoft Surface Pro, Coffee, Banana and a paper notebook. There’s also a power board at every desk. Enough power points to charge several devices.

Coworking spaces are practical for all business activities. There’s meeting rooms, private booths for phone/video calls (with desk space) and other spaces to stretch out and get comfortable. They even have cubicles and private offices too. In addition there’s also bicycle storage, lockers and toilets.

Bicycle Storage at WOTSO, Lockers and Reception Foyer.

Costs: Coworking Spaces vs Cafés

I wrote previously that a monthly pass at a coworking space can work out cheaper than working from a café. Here’s a rough example of this point:

  • 1st day was free at WOTSO.
  • Monthly Flexidesk Pass: $220 per month.
  • @ 20 work days per month? Cost works out to be around $11 per day.
  • @ work everyday? Cost workouts around $7.85 per day.
  • Free Internet, Free snacks, Free Wi-Fi, Free Coffee.
  • At a café I usually purchase around 3 coffees – $15 per day ~ $300 per month.

Work Remotely from Home

Feel like you can’t get out of bed? Good news: you don’t have to. Stay in bed and be at work at the same time. It’s 2020! Be careful! Like the other options mentioned above working from home has pros and cons. Convenience goes without saying, the drawback concern expenses and boundaries.

Work From Home Expenses

Working from home can cost you new IT equipment, new or upgraded internet plans as well as a larger electricity bill. Lighting and air-con are known expenses. To make working from home cheaper:

  1. Recycle: Don’t purchase new gear unless you absolutely need it. Use what’s there.
  2. Borrow: Ask your employer if you can borrow equipment rather than purchase it.
  3. Repair: Explore upgrading the hard-drive and RAM before replacing it. SSDs are fast.
  4. Electricity: Schedule charging in-line with non-peak time charges. Contact provider.

Personal Boundaries

Working from home can have a positive or a negative impact on your mental health. A positive work from home experience needs boundaries. Without boundaries “being at home” and “being at work” can get blurred. “Being at work” becomes the normal state and you find yourself checking emails at all hours and working weekends. Consider the working from bed situation:

  • Positive: Great! I don’t need to “go to work” or get out of bed. This is relaxing.
  • Negative: I can’t sleep. I’m always at work.

Pre-COVID19 Management feared staff working from home would simply disappear into the ether. Nothing would get done. Staff probably thought working from home would involve just sending a couple emails and then disappearing to the kitchen to make artisan ravioli pasta. In reality some end up working more than they’ve ever imagined resulting in poor mental health leading to fatigue, burnout and so on. Here’s a few ideas to make working from home an enjoyable experience:

  1. Prioritise mental health. Keep your work-life in balance.
  2. Set an alarm for your ideal finish time, everyday.
  3. Dress professionally. Routine is key.
  4. Video chat.
  5. Take breaks outside.
  6. Dedicate 1 space or room for work only.
Maintain productivity through efficiency. Try a new technique like pomodoro.

Testing the Waters with Remote Work

If you’re unsure whether you could work from home (or perhaps you don’t have the opportunity in your existing job) work for yourself – remotely. Take a day off, signup to a freelancing site like fiverr, upwork or airtasker and try freelancing. Alternatively you might wish to consider becoming an airbnb host or an investor on a platform like Bondora.

Resources: Australia

Resources: Estonia, Europe & International


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Published by Jaiven

Estonian based Australian Blogger, frequent traveller to Europe. Successful Airbnb Superhost and Entrepreneur.

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