Is this seat taken?

by Alex Halpern

21st May 2018

In April Jeff Tennery, founder and CEO of Moonlighting, said that within a decade the majority of the US workforce would be freelancers. Last year, freelancers made up 36% of that total—a 30% increase from 2016.

It’s not just freelance work that is on the rise, but a growing culture of “BYOD”.. If employees own a personal device – which almost everyone now does, be it laptop, tablet or phone – they can just as easily head to their favourite cafe, library or pub to work remotely. If you’ve ever traversed London during a working day, you’ve seen people typing away on laptops in Starbucks, WeWork, and even pubs.

The real luxury of the remote workspace is having the freedom to choose your working environment. Some people prefer theirs to be filled with hard trance music, while others need ghostly silence. But what about practicality? How easy is it to work in a public space away from the office?

To find out, I grabbed my laptop bag and settled into a few of the prime remote workplaces surrounding Eulogy’s Clerkenwell HQ.

The Cittie of Yorke, Chancery Lane
Halfway down Chancery Lane is an Edwardian pub known for its periodic décor, with an atmosphere that somehow feels both cosy and spacious at the same time. Pubs may not be the first choice for out-of-office workers and freelancers, but this space offers a number of unlikely benefits.

Parallel to the main bar, a series of booths provide private space for anywhere from one to four people to sit with their laptops–complete with plugs for chargers. The booths offer more privacy than the rest of the pub’s open space, and are usually free during working hours.

However, they have limited table space, making them uncomfortable for team meetings and working with both laptop and paperwork.

Pret a Manger, Clerkenwell Road
As with any chain coffee shop or sandwich deli, you can easily anticipate its environment before you arrive. When peckish, tea, coffee and food are just a few steps away. The WIFI is also free and operates at a decent speed if you need to work and communicate efficiently.

On the downside, plugs are sparse, the place is noisy at all times and, during peak hours, you may end up sharing a small table space with other lunch-goers—leaving any confidential work on your laptop at the risk of exposure.

Waterstones, Tottenham Court Road
You’d expect bookshops to be the ideal place to work—surrounded by sources of inspiration, comfortable armchairs, and a collective respect for quietness. This Waterstones has a wonderful little seating space downstairs, that comes with not only a café but also a bar! An instant Eulogy favourite.

There are a few long tables that are ideal for client meetings, and smaller tables and chairs if you’re working alone. The place is rarely busy, so you’re almost never competing for spots, and average-priced hot drinks, snacks and wine are there to welcome you. Waterstones has designed the area to be ideal for students and professionals seeking a charming space beyond the library or office. And it lives up to that design.

Noise is guaranteed to impact your workflow in almost any public space, so unless you’re in a public library, noise-cancelling headphones are a wise investment. If you only need limited space, there are plenty of quiet places you can duck into and type away for several hours before they fill up with after-work visitors.

But with young professionals increasingly wanting flexibility in their jobs, could we be reaching saturation point? If every spot in every café, pub, bookshop or WeWork is taken, who will step in to cater to demand? With UK workers’ frosty relationship with the office looking unlikely to thaw anytime soon, there’s certainly ample opportunity.