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best places to work from 'home'?

I have worked in an office (OK, cube) for like two decades.  But today brings something altogether new, a brave new world for this work-from-home mama.  My husband and kids are home on Mondays (probably playing dinosaurs and ice-cream shop right under my desk!) so I find myself in a nearby coffee shop typing away on my laptop to very loud rock music, very worried about hearing my new boss on a cell phone.  So, I wonder... where do YOU work when you need to get out of the house to do it? 

After a whole hour and 1/2 I'm making a wee list of the key ingredients of an excellent out-of-home non-office:

  • Reliable, fast & free wifi,
  • Good cell reception,
  • Well-placed wall outlets,
  • Quiet tunes,
  • Supportive staff. 

Where, oh where, can I find such a spot - where they actually want me there.  And, I need etiquette tips.  How much to buy (coffee and a bagel, or just coffee?)?  How long to stay?  How much to tip?  Any spots where you don't have to buy anything (the library, maybe?).  Help! 


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Palio in the middle of Ladds has a seperate room and is very quiet. It works well for everythign you ask, but I'd be cautious talking on a cellphone much while there.

Good luck!

i was having these very same rambling thoughts yesterday while i was trying to work at albina press. fabulous-wonderful-thebest coffee, but not so compatible with my stream of email consciousness and desperate need to concentrate. i'm keeping my eye on this thread....

sweetpea baking at SE stark and 12th. they meet all of the requirements and you could buy just a drink or you could get a bagel, muffin, or sweeter baked good.

i tip between 50 cents and a dollar for baristas, i think that's pretty standard. if you're going to stay there more than a couple of hours, then you should probably buy something small if you want to stay longer, unless the place i'm going is utterly empty.

I work at Extracto right by Milagros at 30th & Killingsworth. The folks who work there are really friendly, the pastries are delicious, and the coffee is perfect. I work there a lot, as do a few other mamas I know. I never feel like I've worn out my welcome there.

I was going to suggest Extracto as well--lovely, lively but not loud atmosphere, delicious coffee and treats. My son goes to preschool with one of the owners' daughter, and they are a lovely family, I love to support them and see what they've created there.

I've found Panera Bread to be quite nice for working from 'home'. The food is good, nice seating options, big enough I don't feel bad about being there for a while, free wifi, and electrical outlets.

I've tried a few public libraries. They are great if you don't want access to the internet. Surprisingly, many libraries don't have wifi. The lack of internet is particularly useful when I'm writing and don't want email distractions.

I like extracto a lot in general. The last time I was taking a online grad class, I loved to go to Jim and Patty's on Fremont, which had big, library style tables, free wi-fi and fabulously strong lattes. I haven't tried working there since they moved to their new location, but I'm sure the coffee and the internet are still as I remember.

I'd second the recommendation of libraries, but I've had more success at local university libraries. Last fall I worked 2 mornings a week at Concordia University's library, and I've also tried PCC-Cascade's once or twice. Both have wi-fi, and, for me, are way less distracting than cafes. Unless you're *looking* for distraction, of course!

I worked at the NorthStar Coffee shop off of Interstate and Lombard a few weeks ago. I worked outside on their deck so there weren't any plugs - but my laptop lasted the 4 hours I was there. I think inside there are probably plugs. The internet worked but wasn't super fast. The coffee was GREAT, it wasn't crowded and the staff was friendly. Jim and Patty's is good, but can be noisy and isn't open very late. All McMenemins (I never spell that right) have WiFi, but I feel a bit more like I have to keep ordering things since they have a waitstaff.

Ha! I'm on the hunt for all of the above on a regular basis. II'm a fan of the World Cup in EcoTrust, Coffee Crutch on Yamhill, Boyd's on 10th near Columbia, Backspace on 5th, Haven on SE Division, 35th (though some people have trouble with cell coverage there) and Chance of Rain Cafe off Hawthorne and 32nd. Of course the variable at all these places is whether or not they're playing quiet music suitable for phone call taking. In general I find they play quieter music in the mornings than the afternoons!

Some Multnomah County libraries have wifi (they are adding it to all, I think) but the access to outlets may be lacking. Ask at the specific branches. http://www.multcolib.org/services/wirelessfaq.html

The public libraries in Vancouver all have wifi. The main library on Mill Plain and Ft Vancouver Way has some tucked away desks next outlets (ask where they are at the Info desk). Get one of their cards (free) to use when you hook up to the wireless for faster access (library patrons get faster connection than visitors).

I don't have a lot of input on places, but I do have an opinion on the "how long to stay, eat, etc" question. I've had the experience of being at a coffee shop, to meet someone for coffee, have a coffee with kids, that sort of thing, and all the tables are taken with folks on their laptops. My thought is that if the place if full, you probably shouldn't take up a table any longer than you typically would for the amount of food/drink you've purchased. I know owners tend to think that way as well. If they can't turn tables over then they're turning away customers for folks who aren't paying any longer. If the place is empty, than I wouldn't think much about staying longer. You could always ask the owners what they think.

Just wanted to say that Sydney's on NW 16th and Thurman is a GREAT spot for all of the aforementioned items.
Also, I usually try to alleviate the "how long can I stay" question by ordering a coffee and then, say, half an hour later, ordering a bagel or some pastry or whatever looks good. Then, if I am still hanging around (I've stayed in places up to three hours or so and never had a hard time from the baristas), I'll order another cup of coffee another half an hour later or so.

The Beaverton Library has wifi and is really nice. I keep it as a "just in case" option for working out of the house.

Cooper's Coffee, either by OMSI or on 60th and Stark, is great and the owner, Michael, is a peach.

The comment on Sweetpea made me realize that "a place to take the kids" and "a place to take the laptop" are so totally two separate things. Some friends and I brought our kids to Sweetpea after school one day and when they started acting like kids we got some very dirty looks. I understand, I wouldn't want loud exclamations of joy over cupcakes when I work, but it's funny how you can look at place in two different ways.

I walked by this space on SE Grand this weekend...very intriguing!

i do as much as i can at home, but when i need tunnel vision to get things done (and not hear the dishwasher and washing machine buzzers go off, nevermind the home phone and friendly neighbors...) i head to SOUK in old town - www.soukllc.com

it's set up with hot desks - everything on your checklist - and a kitchen with deluxe coffee machine...you can pay by the hour or get a membership. there's also a fax and copy machine as well as basic office supplies if you need them...

it's not free, but it's practical on deadline and other days where you don't have time for distraction...+ it can be written off as "office space"

hope that helps...

My husband works from Coffee Plant a lot. They are located on SW Corbett, next to the Corbett Fish House. http://www.coffeeplant.net/

I've been to both Souk and CubeSpace and recommend both for quiet if you have the money. I work at Gladstone Coffee on 38th and Gladstone a lot because it's so close to my house, and they tend to keep the music pretty quiet. plus there's a lovely tented area out back where you can talk on the phone if the inside is hopping with espresso orders (conference calls + grinding espresso beans = recipe for disaster). I also like the aforementioned Chance of Rain (they have a really nice variety of food if you get hungry), Urban Grind NE (though the lighting can be weird there), and the Funky Door on Holgate/28th (though it's small and quiet enough that phone calls seem loud but the owner is awesome and i love that she had a bookshelf full of recommended novels).

Tour de Crepes on Alberta can be really nice, but you have to check her schedule of events as sometimes she has live music or readings and such.

there are so many places to work from that id need an area of town to narrow them down. I work from a cafe 3-4 days a week, just to get out of the house. I agree with your list of positive attributes of a cafe workplace. Music is hard to predict because it depends on the barrista.

my own favorites are Opposable Thumb on belmont at zupan's. lots of outlets, comfortable furniture. Backspace in old town, enough outlets, excellent veggie food, younger crowd, centrally located. Chance of Rain on Hawthorne and 32nd. outlets, good wifi, great food.

I'm also a wahm, but find myself able to work from home quite comfortably, plus my laptop... ugh, just not up to the task.

But I often find myself needing to meet with & potentially present to clients. Most of my clients are also small business people, and often we prefer to meet at a café, because ugh... my house is way too much of a task to tidy up when I'm prepping for a presentation!

Any suggestions for the public "conference room"? I've found the Daily Café on SE Grand to be pretty good; they have that large table that we can lay a bunch of stuff out on. Something I'm not thinking of? A large table, good lighting, not too crowded with hipsters breathing down your neck waiting for your table...

i like cubespace, when I can afford the $250/month. it's much more serious an atmosphere than a cafe. the quiet room is especially nice. one thing about cubespace that makes a real financial difference: espresso and some other basic drinks and snacks are included -- whereas at cafes I spend like $5-10/day and still don't get much work done.

I also work sometimes at souk: http://www.soukllc.com/ I think prices are a max of $10/hr. Espresso included. The things I find most valuable about souk are: the high-speed scanner/copier (perfect for getting big documents into electronic form) and quiet space for phone calls. Another perk is the conference room when I need it.

The thing about coffee shops is that I just can't do phone-cally things there. The espresso machines are too loud. If I only need to do non-phone work, I like Urban Grind NW (near REI). Reliable connection, good coffee, and a breakfast panini that can be my lunch. So, for $5-6, I feel like I can eat and get a good 2-3 hours of work done. I also like Mercato in NW. Also reliable connection and food, but more spendy food.

Here is the info on wifi at the Multnomah Libraries: http://www.multcolib.org/services/wirelessfaq.html I have gotten good work done at the library, but I have gotten very stern looks if my phone even vibrates in the library. One should only speak on the phone in the hallways and other permitted areas in the libraries.

As for etiquette, I buy an item, tip, and feel like I can stay for 2 hours. Even three. One thing I feel challenged about is what to do when I have to potty: leave all my belongings including computer and papers at the table? Bring my wallet and laptop to the potty with me?

I sort of live at Sydney's cafe in NW. I still heart them and they have yet to kick me out :) I usually end up buying coffee, breakfast, more coffee, lunch, an Izzy...lots of outlets, free wi-fi, easy for clients to get to from anywhere since it's by I-405/I-5/HWY26, good for kids if I need to (or if clients need to) bring them, nice staff (except for one gal who really doesn't seem to like kids, but she's the exception), yummy pastries, soups, salads. Most people are on laptops there, having meetings, or talking on their phones, but the noise rarely seems to bother me there and I think it's because of the high ceilings and traffic flow.

Olivia, I often wonder the same thing about using the restroom: leave my stuff & save my spot or bring it all w/me? what do you all do?

now that this conversation is winding down, i have a question: how many of these places are open, say, on Sunday at 6 am? Or weekdays until 11 pm? I'm looking at freelancing & I can see that I'll need to sneak out of the house when my husband is home from work....

I have often held meetings in the back room of World Cup on NW Glisan & 19th (18th?). You can call ahead and reserve it, and it's a nice large table with an entire wall of windows. !

This is a great thread. I have a p/t nanny so i can pop out of the home office and say hello but sometimes it's just too much of a distraction. I have to talk on the phone a lot so I also like Sydney's. It's big so they never seem to run out of tables and I don't feel like my talking is disruptive in such a large space. It's also very light & bright which I love.

One more thing re: wifi. I always had problems with wifi at coffee shops and the company I work for finally hooked me up with a wireless card. What a lifesaver! I tried both Tmobile which was beyond slow and Verizon. The Verizon card is fantastic - much faster than the wifi at any place I've every tried to work outside of the home. I'd highly recommend it and wifi concerns will be a thing of the past when you're working on the go.

Re: going to the bathroom. I hate schlepping everything with me, and I've never had a problem with theft at a coffee shop, but I always feel better safe than sorry! It would take someone a few seconds to steal a laptop and purse.

I live in SE so here are my suggestions. like Uncommon Grounds on Hawthorne, and the bubble tea shop across the street (Fat Straw) also has wi-fi, lots of outlets, and a big conference type room in the back. It's never crowded.

I've never worked on laptop there but Bubble Bubble on Woodstock (across Papaccinos, which has wi-fi but seems to be less friendly, in policy, to those who want to hang out longer than an hour) has wi-fi and seems like the kind of place where a cell phone call wouldn't be seen as too obnoxious.

Most businesses seem satisfied if you buy a cup of coffee to hang out, and if I'm working there for more than an hour I usually buy a pastry or something else to eat.

If you're in a bind and the shops are closed I have found college libraries to be good places (shh). They usually have guest access to their campus wi-fis. And finally, if you want someplace that's open 24-7 and offers food almost all the time, has great wi-fi, with lots of seating options, and no one bats an eye if you have a long detailed discussion on the phone, there is PDX. I've never gone but considered it when on deadline. There is the parking cost but you don't have to pay for anything else.

In NE - Daily Market/Cafe on Halsey (around 53rd) has free wi-fi. The staff is very cool and used to folks working on their laptops. Beware- it tends to get busy around lunch time and tables are a commodity then. Re: potty breaks, most people I've seen are comfortable leaving laptops out, but I'm still too paranoid. Also, there's a quiet outdoor patio in the back, but I'm not sure how well the signal is from there. Nice though for cell phone conversations. And they have a play area inside for kids, in the event your little ones must accompany you.

Just curious - did most of you work in an office before working from home or has the work from home option been a mainstay of the job since the beginning?
I would LOVE to work from home and I'm just curious about how to go about this option (my current employer would like everyone at the office 8-5 so it is not an option at my current job). I'm just not sure where you look for jobs that are specifically work from home.
Sorry to go off topic a bit...

I am writing a piece for Portland Family magazine on work-from-home mamas: what they do, how they do it, do they have regular childcare or carve out the time by bartering with other mamas, relying on spouses/partners/friends, work in the middle of the night? Rack up the DVDs? Do they sometimes do what I do and bribe the children with something awful like Nerds?

If you are a work-from-home mama and would be willing to speak with me about your experiences, please contact me at the email below:




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