As my faithful readers may recall, I work for a small company in the Christian publishing market. Specifically, my company creates and markets Bible and Bible-related software products for (mostly) mobile computers. For each of the ten years that we’ve been in business, all of our staff has worked from our individual home offices. We haven’t ever had a central office.
Through the years, we’ve had occasional periods where we might work together at some one’s house. For instance, when Microsoft was preparing to introduce the first Pocket PC, my friend and business partner Craig and I were hard at work to create the first PocketBible for Pocket PC in time to demonstrate it at the Pocket PC launch event at New York City’s Grand Central Station. At the time, Craig’s office at this house was large enough for one, but not two. My office, on the other hand, was in a large but roughly finished room in my basement. I remember the wallpaper was particularly colorful and made to appear as if paint had been randomly splattered on the wall. So, for several weeks, we worked together in that basement room to reach the goal of finishing PocketBible for Pocket PC. However, by and large, most of our time has been spent working individually at our own offices.
While working at home is great (Craig and I both have different office space in our homes than we did those many years ago), for the past several weeks, Craig and I have been trying something new. We’ve been meeting together twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) to work off-site — that is, away from our home offices. We’ve been meeting at one of several local coffee shops (or similar locations) and setting up shop.
It’s been great to “get away” and focus on programming tasks, instead of other work-related work, on these days. I’m not sure how long we’ll keep it up, but for now, it’s been a good experience.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned.
My MacBook: if I turn off my AirPort (wireless Internet) except when I actually need it, and don’t listen to music via my Mac, then my MacBook battery will last most of the day. However, it’s important to have access to an electrical outlet to prevent having to stop prematurely due to a drained battery.
My iPhone: MLB At Bat turns my iPhone into a baseball game radio machine… I can listen live to any MLB baseball game. So, sometimes when there’s an afternoon game, I plug in listen.
My Bag: my Rickshaw Bagworks bag (previous articles here and here) has been a great bag for such a day. It has room for my MacBook and accessories, plus notebooks, books and spiral-bound documentation. I have a bag that is essentially a computer sleeve (I wonder where that is), but this size is much more practical for day away from the office.
On Being Welcome: I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the coffee shops don’t mind us hanging out, using their wireless (and sometimes electricity), and working all day. Of course, we do buy coffee, lunch, snacks, etc., throughout the day.
So, where have we been?
- Java Creek: Java Creek has become our “normal” spot for Thursdays. Several varieties of coffees are available, and the menu is extensive, which makes for a great lunch. Coffee refills are not free, but we can run a tab all day long and settle up when we leave. Seating is comfortable, and the music is nice but not obtrusive. Power outlets are readily available. I’ve been known to stop for a jelly-filled donut on my way…
- Coffee Emporium: the Coffee Emporium has become our “normal” spot for Tuesdays. This is convenient for me, as it is just a few blocks walk away. The interior is a bit more spartan than Java Creek, but is still comfortable. Coffee refills are not free, but again, we can run a tab all day. The lunch menu is more limited than Java Creek, but I’ve not yet grown tired of it. And I’ve recently learned that the breakfast sandwiches ($3) are awesome. (Since I like to be up for a few hours before eating breakfast, it’s nice to be able to find a light breakfast wherever we’re at.) Unfortunately, power outlets are limited, so there’s really only one table that works for us.
- Roasters: Roasters is the smallest of the coffee shops that we visit, and the wooden seats aren’t comfortable for a whole day. However, if you’re into lots of coffee selections, this is the place for you. A Mediterranean restaurant shares the space, so lunch choices are good. Power strips are available, but coffee refills are not free. As with the other coffee shops, we’ve been able to run a tab.
- CoffeeSmiths: CoffeeSmiths filled up in the early afternoon with people working on laptops, and after school with loud high school kids. On the positive side, the seating was very good and the tea selection was great. On the negative side, the lunch choices were more like you’d find in my kitchen than at a restaurant. Power is limited, but has been available when we’ve been there. While at CoffeeSmiths, we met a young man working on an iPhone program related to disc golf, so that was pretty cool.
- Oscars: it doesn’t have the coffee shop vibe, but the coffee refills are free. (Since I don’t drink a lot of coffee, that doesn’t mean much to me.) However, they also offer Kathy’s Pies. Craig has had lunch here most every Saturday for the past two decades, and that’s pretty cool, too. Unfortunately, Oscars doesn’t offer free wireless Internet. That would be a problem except for the fact that one of the other companies in the strip mall has unsecured wireless that we can use during their business hours.