Working at home every day can be a pain. It can get lonely, it can be difficult to get into a groove, and it can allow work to impede on your personal space. That’s why co-working spaces and coffee shops are all the rage among freelancers and founders. Leaving your home office can help remedy some of the issues typically experienced when you work from home, but in order to have a successful day outside of your home office, you’ll want to provision yourself accordingly.
This here’s a list of necessities, niceties, and novelties I’d recommend bringing with you the next time you choose to skip the home office and set up shop at your local coffeehouse.
One quick note: This post won’t talk about the different software you should have on your computer or your smartphone to make remote work more productive or manageable. We’ll leave that for another post down the road.
A Feature-Rich Smartphone
There isn’t a freelance or remote worker I know who would consciously start the workday without a smartphone. While the benefits of a smartphone are many, I use my iPhone as a second screen to compliment what I’m doing on my computer while I’m working remote. For instance, I find it much more convenient to check email, schedule calendar appointments, use social media, or do light research on the web from my phone so that I can preserve whatever workflow I have happening on my desktop. You can also download smartphone apps that can help you manage minor tasks—like time tracking—so that you can reserve you computer for completing your more complex tasks.
I also treat my smartphone as the central hub for managing my work day. Even if the app isn’t the primary tool I use for a specific activity, I will at least turn on notifications from the app to alert me when something important needs to get done. This is primarily how I use Slack when I’m working remote. While I always have the Slack desktop app running, my Slack mobile app alerts are set up to alert me when my attention is required. Lastly, you should consider investing in a wireless plan that includes a hotspot you can turn on from your phone. Yes, this is definitely a last-ditch effort, but the last thing you want is to end up with crummy Wi-Fi and nothing to do about it.
A Commuter’s Laptop
Even though I could (and have) done it before, it can be quite difficult to complete a entire day’s work straight from an iPhone. I currently lug around a 15″ MBP, but I travel or work remotely about as often as I work from an office. If you can, make sure your work computer is smaller than 15 inches. You’ll need the extra space on the small coffee shop table for your phone and analog peripherals. Plus, anything you might need a larger screen for should probably be managed back at home with your second screen.
Chargers and Mobile Power Packs
Right next to having a spotty or non-existent WiFi connection, one of the most important things to plan for when working at a coffee shop is running out of power on your computer or your phone. If your like most remote workers, you’ve arrived at a possible workspace only to find all the available outlets occupied, or, worse, positioned in some place that’s impossible to access conveniently. Rather than waste time commiserating about your fate, sit down in the closest space to an outlet and get to work. If the outlet doesn’t open up before you lose juice, you’ll want access to a fully-charged, portable power pack.
Since your computer is your best friend while working remote, you’ll want to invest in a unit that lets you run/charge your laptop if you need some time to find an available outlet. More often than not, this style of charger will also include USB ports in case you can’t plug your phone into your computer to get a charge.
Now, this purchase may seem like a splurge, but once you’ve had your computer die in the middle of an important deliverable, you’ll be convinced of the power pack’s necessity.
Headphones with a Microphone
For those of us who still need have to attend meetings while working remote, you’ll want to also invest in a set of headphones that also have a built-in microphone. In most cases, the stock headphones that accompany your iPhone will work just fine. If you enjoy wireless headphones and use an iPhone, AirPods are a huge lifesaver. Just watch out for the battery life if you spend time on the phone (it helps to keep a lightning cable—or two—plugged in throughout the day to keep those battery-drained devices charged).
That said, if you need to rely more heavily on headphones to get your job done, you’ll probably want to consider something with better or more reliable sound quality. Alternatively, you might consider upgrading the feature set to finds a useful pair of noise-cancelling headphones. This last one is especially relevant if you spend the majority of your time working in public places more often than not.
Digital tools are table-stakes for the remote worker. But, I find that analog tools tend to be forgotten. Most of us realize the importance of items such as pens, Sharpie markers, highlighted, and Post-It notes only when we really need them, but fail to have brought them with us.
If nothing else, I always stock a ruled journal and some pens, which I keep visible and available to me throughout the day. This simple analog combination comes in handy when I need to make a quick not, record a nugget of an idea, or need a place to record the action items of a conference call on which I happen to be sharing my screen.
All the Ancillary Stuff
If you frequent the same local haunt most of the days of the week, it can be beneficial to subscribe to the location’s loyalty program. Conduct an analysis of how frequently you spend money while working remotely and consider the savings the could be gained by taking part of a loyalty program. Plus, that free cup of coffee might come in handy on a particularly taxing day.
If a coffee shop is your workspace, you should also consider bringing your own mug or tumbler. Many spots will give you a discount on coffee or free refills for helping them eliminate waste.
Finally, be sure to keep an app on hand to track and record all of your expenses, especially if you can bill them back to your business. And, if you’re the kind of person who’s always networking, don’t forgot your business cards, portfolio, or even copies of your resume. You never know who will turn up.