Where to Work When You've Lost Power at Home

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on September 2, 2011

Hurricane Irene knocked out power in nearly 1 million homes on Sunday — and many people, myself included, are still waiting for service to be restored. For those of us who work at home, this is a bigger problem than being unable to catch the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen. With no electricity or internet connection, we can’t communicate with clients or complete projects until we can plug back in. What’s a dedicated professional to do? Find new digs. Here are a few places to take your laptop when your home office is offline.

A public library. In general, libraries are quiet, offer comfy chairs and desk space, and provide free internet access. Although librarians may frown upon you taking loud, work-related calls on your cell, they certainly won’t mind you catching up on email correspondence and other onscreen work. The best part: You’re not obligated to buy anything.

A friend’s office. If you have friends who own a standalone business, ask if they’re up and running and whether they’d mind if you set up shop for a day or two. Even if their office is in an area that was heavily affected by the storm, power companies tend to prioritize businesses over residences, so there’s a good chance that they’ll have electricity before you do.

A coffee shop or cafe. Chains like Starbucks, Panera Bread, and even McDonald’s offer wireless internet access — as do many independent coffeehouses. These businesses are likely to be noisy, so you may want to hold off on any important calls until you’re back at home. You’ll also be obligated to purchase a drink or a meal for the privilege of using the internet, and you may get dirty looks or be asked to leave if you stay for hours without buying a refill. If you were planning to eat lunch out anyway, no problem, but these costs can add up quickly.

A co-working space. Many cities now have co-working spaces available, places where freelancers can rent out desks or cubicles on an hourly or daily basis. Depending on the workspace, you may have access to a shared kitchenette and even a conference room. Co-working spaces generally lease out for $200 to $300 a month, but some offer free drop-ins or a free one-day trial, and others will allow business owners to rent by the hour. Such settings are generally well-suited to creative professionals and may offer the added bonus of helping you network.