From the Vail Daily Weekend Edition:
Walk into a coffee shop, cafe or restaurant and you’ll likely see something that, 10 years ago, would have been rare: people working on a computer. Now ubiquitous, more and more people are working remotely, choosing dining establishments, libraries, co-working spaces or even bars to get their work done.
In a recent Gallup poll titled “State of the Workplace,” released in February, 43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely last year, according to the survey of more than 15,000 adults. That represents a 4 percent increase since 2012. The continual improvements in technology are helping to make working remotely more feasible and it’s also believed to be beneficial for both employees and employers, with both citing an increase in productivity.
The Vail Valley is no different. Computers share space with coffee cups, libraries are laptop friendly and even the welcome centers have Wi-Fi seekers that hunker down for a few hours of work. There is not one but two co-working spaces in the valley, creating an office-like environment for entrepreneurs and solo acts. If you’re looking to get out of the cubicle or ditch your kitchen table, then here are some of the best places to work when you’re out of the office.
LEVEL ONE: PUBLIC SPACES
There are several levels of spaces to work that are outside of the home. Perhaps the first level, the gateway, is the free public space. Libraries are the gold-standard for the level one workspace. With free Wi-Fi, plenty of desks and a quiet, studious environment, the library is an almost ideal place to work. For those traveling without their own computers, the library can hook you up with desktops for public use, though they often have a time limit. Other office tasks such as faxing, printing and scanning to email, fax or USB drive can also be accomplished; prices vary by library. With four libraries in the Vail Valley, located in Vail, Avon, Eagle and Gypsum, there are plenty of opportunities to get your work done in a quiet, comfortable environment, with friendly staff to help you out as needed.
Other public spaces are available if you’re willing to get creative. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the town of Vail. Park yourself at a picnic table and enjoy amazing views while you work — the ones by the Covered Bridge next to Gore Creek are wonderful. Or, when was the last time you visited the welcome centers? Conveniently located in both Vail Village and Lionshead Village, these spaces are quiet and comfortable, providing several Vail Daily staffers with an on-the-go office experience.
CAFES, RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Perhaps the most well known of remote workspaces is the coffee shop. These establishments often cater to the computer-dependent, providing fuel in the form of caffeine and power outlets. Often functioning as a home office-away-from-home, people find their favorite spots and become regulars.
“Most of the time I’m at Color Coffee Roasters in Eagle,” said Leigh Ann Van Fossan, and artist who lives in Eagle. “They have amazing coffee and it’s a cool space. I just love the quality of their product, so that helps, and I love the lighting. For me, it’s a big deal, for my mental and emotional mindset.”
Fossan works both in her studio and in the coffee shop, often using the latter for correspondence, scheduling and other office tasks. She said that while the space and product are appealing, it’s also a networking opportunity, speaking with the other people who come through the doors. It’s also helpful for her workload.
“If you don’t have to be bound to your desk, I get a lot more productive work done in that environment than in an office setting,” she said.
Loaded Joe’s in Avon is also a popular spot for the out-of-office crowd. Open at 7 a.m. with free Wi-Fi, plenty of tables and a convivial air, you’ll often find people either conducting meetings or pounding away at the keyboard.
“I use Loaded Joe’s as my conference room because I work at home,” said Pavan Krueger in a Facebook comment. “I think that’s true for a lot of people.”
It’s not a coincidence: the owners of Loaded Joe’s had the idea of creating a space where people could come and hang out, stay for several hours and work if they wanted to when they created the business. Originally from Seattle, they saw that coffee shops were “third places,” a space in addition to home and work where people spend their time.
“We knew there was a need for it (this type of place) and that people would like it,” explained Brandt Olsen, general manager at Loaded Joe’s. “We believe that people attract people. If you have one coffee and stay four hours, we love it.”
But don’t limit your sights to coffee shops — restaurants and bars can provide not only a workspace but also lead to more business.
Crystal “CJ” Jay, a real estate broker with Berkshire Hathaway in Vail Village, uses Vendetta’s as a remote office and also to meet new potential clients. She’s developed a relationship with the bartenders: When visitors are chatting about potentially looking for real estate in the area, the bartenders will often introduce Jay as a broker.
“I like to position myself somewhere where people will come in,” she said. “That’s the connection I’m trying to make. For me, it’s not that I hate my office … but why sit in my office when I can connect with people outside?”
From networking or simply getting a caffeine or lunch fix while working, coffee shops and restaurants are popular places to work remotely. While the chances of working in complete silence are slim, the benefits can sometimes outweigh the negatives.
LEVEL THREE: CO-WORKING SPACES
The closest thing to having an office outside of an office is a co-working space. Featuring various levels of membership, from a single desk to a private office, these spaces are designed to provide all of the elements of a traditional office such as printers, scanners and faxes, high-speed internet and a communal coffee pot. However, unlike traditional offices, members choose their level of commitment, ranging from a few hours to months at a time. The result is more of a community feel, explained Doug Clayton, director of Entrepreneurs’ BaseCamp at Vail Centre.
“At a coffee shop, you know the barista, but it’s a more transient crowd,” he said. “Here, you get to know the people next to you. You can drop in, like a coffee-shop, or you can have a permanent desk.”
Located above Loaded Joe’s in Avon, Entrepreneurs’ BaseCamp is one of two co-working spaces in the valley, along with simpatiCOWORKING in Eagle. While the idea of renting a desk has been around in large cities for years, the co-working model started gaining traction about five years ago. The options and benefits of the co-working space appeal to people in a wide range of industries, including tech, medical fields, lawyers, accountants, emergency planners and, most recently, Bishop Bindings, a local company that makes Telemark bindings.
More than a desk, the idea of co-working is one of collaboration and community for people who can work from anywhere but want an office-like environment, Clayton said. The people who rent the space are there to work and it can create a sense of discipline that might not exist when working at home in pajamas.
“It’s like an office with no bosses,” he said. “The bosses are gone all the time because you’re the boss.”
From dedicated co-working spaces to public spaces and businesses, almost any location can serve as an office if you have the right tools and outlook. Simply take your computer, a good attitude and a respect for those who might be utilizing the place for its original purpose and you’ll be good to go. Who knows? The Pirate Park might be the next great workspace.