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Travel isn’t just for vacations or highly scheduled work trips. More and more small business owners are taking their jobs on the road and working from cafes and coworking spaces around the world.
Performance Foundry, for example, is a completely remote company. We don’t have offices — our staff work from home, or from wherever they can find a steady internet connection, across three continents.
Managing Director Craig Martin and I travel full time, spending our weekdays attached to our computers and our evenings and weekends exploring exotic locales. As a result, finding a place to work is a challenge we face regularly; we usually set up an office in the corner of our hotel room, or work from cafes while we’re on the road. However, we’ve recently discovered the benefits of coworking while travelling in Panama and Colombia.
Coworking is great on many levels. If you’re a procrastinator, being in a work environment instead of a hotel or cafe can help keep you focused. If you’re an extrovert, you can spend time with people rather than feeling isolated as you work on your own. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and make social and business connections — the social events many coworking spaces put on makes this even easier.
Many coworking spaces focus on local residents, providing desks and offices for a month or a year at a time. This is a great service for people with a home base, but not so great for businesspeople who are just passing through.
However, there are spaces out there for the travelling worker, and standards vary wildly. It’s important to choose the right coworking space for you, so that you can get as much work done as possible!
First, do a search for coworking options in the city you’ll be travelling to. Google Maps is a great place to start, because you’ll be able to see exactly where in the city the spaces are located; a straight Google search is good second stop.
Unfortunately, not every city boasts coworking spaces; even quite large urban areas are bereft of shared work areas! We found multiple options in Panama City, Medellin, and Bogotá; but Cartagena not only lacked places to cowork, its cafe choices were limited as well.
If you have several spaces to choose from, consider distance from your accommodation as well as the safety and pleasantness of the neighbourhoods where the coworking offices are located.
Price is an important factor to take into account. Daily and weekly rates vary wildly, so don’t just sign up for the first option you see. Consider the value of the space to you and what’s included in the price.
Our first coworking experience was at Workings in Panama City, which is located in a modern skyscraper in the business district of town. We took advantage of the free trial day on offer, but returned the next day to get more work done because we were convinced that the daily rate represented value for us. At $25 a day per person, it certainly wasn’t cheap, but coffee and beer was included — if we’d chosen to work at a cafe, we could easily have spent that much per person on drinks.
What really sold us in Panama, however, were the internet speeds. The connection at our hotel was snail-paced, and the local cafes didn’t offer a much better choice. Workings delivered on its promise of fast internet, which was our number-one priority at that time.
Fast internet is key, and the next coworking space we tried didn’t deliver. We were in Medellin, which boasted three or four spaces to choose from: we narrowed in on Cafe Ondas, Atom House, and Epicentro. Cafe Ondas was closest, so we ubered there one Monday morning and set ourselves up in one of the airy coworking rooms above the cafe of the same name. The setup was great, though a little stuffy, and we made use of the kitchen to prepare a basic lunch. The coworkers (all foreigners) were friendly, but the Internet was on par with what our hotel had to offer: uploading anything at all was an exercise in frustration.
Luckily, our second choice (Epicentro) delivered, with upload and download speeds of 30 mps. As a result of their commitment to speed, they won our business for the next two weeks.
We’d wasted time trying out Ondas, and had a similar experience at Atom House in Bogotá. After that, I learned my lesson, and requested a screenshot of an internet speed test from the next coworking space we considered.
Make sure you can make yourself comfortable in your coworking space before you commit to spending more than a day there. Try out the chairs and check desk height; consider bathroom availability, the existence of a kitchen or coffee-making facilities, the presence of natural light. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t get your best work done.
We loved the vibe at Epicentro, but all the desks were taken due to its popularity with local businesses. This meant we spent our two weeks there working from folding tables in the events area/garage. Luckily, the garage was well set up, with plenty of power sockets within reach — something that was lacking in a couple of the other spaces we tried. We got a lot of work done during our time there, but we certainly could have been more comfortable.
It’s also important to consider the atmosphere of the space, and make sure it’s right for you. Some spaces are aimed at bloggers or entrepreneurs on a budget; others have a more professional vibe. If a space is too casual or formal for you, consider another option.
If you’re staying for more than a day or so, ask if you can leave your desk set up overnight. Many coworking spaces require visitors to take all of their equipment with them at the end of the day, but if you can leave notebooks, keyboards, or other nonessential items behind, this can save you a lot of set-up time in the morning. This option was available at Magicville in Bogotá, and we found it very convenient.
For extra convenience, you could also consider coliving in addition to coworking — some spaces offer hotel or hostel-style accommodation in addition to their office areas. This idea is growing in popularity and is a great option if you’re wanting to save time on your morning commute — it may even save you money.
Coworking is a great option for the travelling businessperson — just make sure you find the space that’s right for you!
We’d love to help you with whichever online project you’d like to take on the road with you — get in touch with us today so we can see how we can work together.