Tech Telecommuters - What's Your "Third Place"?

Adventures in Telecommuting

At Microsoft, I'm classified as a "mobile" employee.  That's code for "work where you can be productive".  Much of the time, that means home, and sometimes our Waltham, MA office where we have shared space you can grab as needed.  Many times, though, it's a "third place" (I'll get to that in a moment.) 

MPj04308140000[1]As great as working from home can be, as the weather warms and summer approaches, there's a new source of urgency to be somewhere else... vacation.

I absolutely adore my daughters (a phrase you just know will be followed by the word "however"), however, the reality is that the summer months are challenging for the work-from-home types, especially those that need to code and/or read a lot, without having to arbiter weighty disputes involving shouts of "nuh-uh!" and "did too!"

Not Work, Not Home... The Third Place

The term "third place" was coined to reflect places that people go outside of home (first place) and work (second place).

My home office is usually pretty good, and I can escape to the back porch (where I am right now) which is nice, but school vacation or not, there are times I simply need a change of venue.

So what's my "third place"?  Well, there isn't just one...

The Coffee Shop

MPj04230300000[1] The big daddy of all the choices.  Scorned by some, but thoroughly enjoyed by many others.  Count me in the latte(r) camp.

I'm hardly alone in this.  Here's someone's Starbuckian Handbook.  Sage advice indeed.

Contrary to tip #1 in the "handbook", I tend to alternate between the selection of Starbucks and Panera Breads in our area, so I don't wear out my welcome at any one.

Generally, the coffee shops work for what I need.

The Library

"Did he just say 'the library'? How old fashioned!"  

In my college years, I was a library person.  Many of my peers just couldn't stand being there, but I found it allowed me to truly focus.  No distractions, no loud espresso machines, no toe-tapping music looping in the MPj04276860000[1]background.  Just blissful peace with the faint sounds of pages being turned and the occasional politely hushed conversation.

The library works for telecommuters, too.  I'm sure one of your area towns has an adequately "workable" library.  Also, college/university libraries are getting the message too, adding amenities to make an extended work session more comfortable.

Sure, they don't always have the latest computing technology books, but if that's what you need, then perhaps the next place is more your style...

The Big Bookstores

An interesting hybrid between a library and a coffee shop (the big bookstores generally also have a cafe these days).  I find it an especially nice place to go if I'm in research mode.  People are usually a little more clued in to library etiquette, versus coffeehouse chatter and cellphone barking. 

Research is especially good at these places since I can usually grab a few different books/magazines on a topic and plow through them (over an appropriately large coffee beverage of course.)


MPj03860690000[1]I haven't tried this one yet, but a friend suggested it as a possibility.  And why not?  Many hotels have carefully crafted, welcoming environments that are comfortable and quiet.

As long as you're patronizing their coffee/snack area and/or restaurant, there would seem little problem with hanging around for a little while to catch up on things. 

It could be a nice alternative to the mainstream coffee houses.


CNN has been running a special work at home feature, with stories about telecommuting.  Once concept that piqued my interest was of "coworking", where fellow telecommuting developers (or other professions) gather in a common place for work.  There's a coworking wiki, with information on area groups. 

Missing the social interaction of work, but don't miss the dreaded "quick questions" that often tag along for the ride?  Coworking might be for you.

Some Assistance Required

So why did I write this?  I'd enjoy hearing your feedback.  Have you encountered any places that could serve as a home away from your home away from the office?  Any places that sound good, but in reality should just be avoided?

Believe me, I really want to know. 

Hmm, is that the kids I hear?