Can I Steal Your WiFi?

This article was originally published in print in South Carolina Woman magazine…

A really good friend of mine asked me the other day about places to use for mobile offices. I thought it would make a good idea for an article. I’m sure many of you like to work outside the office from time to time and maybe I can offer a few new suggestions to open up this way of working.

Having a crappy main office is not a prerequisite for wanting to work in other places. I have a really nice office complete with a classroom, full kitchen, and my own bathroom. If I move the tables around it’s big enough the play a game of indoor volleyball. I’m sure many of you have nice offices as well. On the other hand, your space may be really horrible for accomplishing good work. You may have a tiny cramped space the size of a bathroom closet. You may work from home and have kids, pets, and spouses underfoot.

Personally, I go stir crazy in the same space all the time. I like to get out and make sure that the world isn’t ending and ensure that the undead aren’t walking the streets. I also tend to work better with social noise around me. For some, this is a distraction. For me, it aids my focus. It also helps me to get away from the minutiae and other distractions amongst my piles of paperwork and really dig into a project.

The following are my favorite places to work. Most of them are on the south end of Myrtle Beach because that’s my stomping grounds, and I like to stay fairly close to home. Among these locations I look for several key characteristics, which are food and beverage, clean bathrooms, not too busy, and not overly noisy. There are a million and one places in town that offer free Wi-fi, but not all of them make good temporary offices. If it’s not a popular mobile office location, be sure to check with the staff before you set up shop and start turning their table into a desk.

  1. Barnes and Noble- My favorite hotspot is the cafe in the B&N at Market Common. It’s not unusual to find me there working, meeting coaching clients, or hosting open office hours. My only qualm is the number of students that often gather there and a limited amount of electrical outlets. This location has a lot of regulars.
  2. Chik-Fil-A- There are quite a few CFA spots around town and they’re all pretty good. If you go, don’t go too close to peak times around breakfast, lunch, or dinner hours. Sit in the section away from the playground entrance. The best part about CFA is the unlimited sweet tea refills.
  3. Bojangles- This one surprises most folks, but the new Bojangles are great for working. They’re not too busy around lunchtime, have Wi-fi, and the food is excellent. They also have several televisions in the dining room so you can also stay up on the news if you’d like. The accessible fountain drink machines open up unlimited caffeination opportunities.
  4. Books-A-Million- Although there are three locations around the beach, only the one at Coastal Grande Mall is good for working. The others don’t have good cafe areas or plugs for your tech. The Wi-fi is only available if you purchase their annual membership for $20. It’s worth it for me, but some people don’t like paying for Wi-fi.
  5. Krispy Kreme in Garden City. The new donut extravaganza has a really nice lounge area. Be aware that this is not the best spot if you’re on a diet or don’t have enough willpower to be satiated with just coffee.
  6. Scotchman Gas Station. I’m not sure about other Scotchman gas stations, but the one near the Highway 501 entrance to Carolina Forest is really nice. They have free Wi-fi, a large television running the news, and access to lots of snacks. I use this one a lot when I need to kill time in that area.
  7. Tinder Box at Broadway at the Beach. I love relaxing with the Yale brothers in this cigar lounge complete with leather couches and a big television. Key words though…this is a cigar lounge. If you don’t like smoking, don’t go here. I’ve given you fair warning, and no one wants to hear you complain. I don’t smoke cigars on a regular basis but I do love the smell of a good cigar and it doesn’t bother me in the least.

When you use these spots for your own mobile office, be sure to observe a few items of Mobile Office Etiquette:

  • Buy something. It’s good form to buy something if you’re using the establishment. Consider it a cost of use fee or just plain old courtesy. Depending on the location, I personally employ a one item or five dollar threshold, whichever one suits me.
  • Take a surge protector. Many places are low on outlets and you can make instant friends by using a surge protector if necessary.
  • Don’t grab a bigger table than you need.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome.
  • Observe the room’s sound quality. Not all places are quiet as libraries but each place has its own tone. Just sit a few minutes and it’ll be easy to pick up on.
  • Get to know the people around you. I like to get to know the fellow mobile officemates near me. I’ve made some great acquaintances this way.
  • Get to know the staff if you use the location frequently.

Using a satellite office location is a great way to expand your boundaries. It can lead to more opportunities, new friends, and some really great coffee. Check around and find a few locations that work well for you.

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