Whether you’re self-employed, employed, traveling or just wanting to check email or get online without paying the tab for doing so, here are a few places you can, and in comfort. Of course there are telework centers and co-working spaces too, but at the following you can get fed, have access to clean restrooms and sit in pleasant surroundings, for at least 1.5 hours, without getting asked to vacate. Of course, not everything we do for work, even with our tablet or laptop, requires web access. If you’re like me there are times when all I need is Word and /or Excel to get hours of work completed.
McDonalds – One of the best free public wifis anywhere – fast, and reliable. Get a meal for $5 or less, or even a snack and large drink and unless you come in at rush hour where seats are at a premium you can sit here in a nice roomy booth for 2 hours undisturbed and work away. I know. I do it at least once a week. I come in for breakfast about 10am or late lunch/early dinner 3-4pm and the place is just about empty.
BurgerKing – I’m not positive every location has free wifi, but in Phoenix they do. You have to ask for the code, though try Whopper99. That’s what works locally. Again, no one is going to throw you out if you hang out and don’t make a pest of yourself or take up a booth when it’s crowded with folks waiting for seating.
Denny’s – Check the location for wifi before you go. In Phoenix some have it and some don’t. But there are also great deals for seniors. Every Denny’s offers 20 percent off your entire meal every day after 4pm if you show your AARP card. And the local franchise has a 55+ card. You get it stamped each time you eat and every sixth entree is free. Again, if it’s not crowded,no one will give you dirty looks for hanging out until you’ve been there about 90 minutes. Make sure you tip well, and I always start out by saying, “I plan on dawdling over my coffee to get some work done. I hope you don’t mind. If you start to get busy I’ll leave.” Everyone is very nice about it.
The local library – generally all it takes is a library card and you can work here as long as you like via their free wifi. Of course, you can’t use your cell phone but you have the added advantage of having plug ins to keep your phone and laptop charged while you work. And many have private business rooms you can use, though some might require a pre-registration by phone or web. Most don’t ask for payment. And while they’ll say otherwise, who’s going to know if you sneak a drink from your bottle of water or eat your granola bar while you’re in there with the door closed? Just don’t make a mess.
The local airport – most major airports have free wifi, though some have a day charge. Check before you go. There’s plenty of seating, though you might be hard-pressed to find a good workspace with desk area. But there’s always a restroom, someplace to eat, no restriction on bringing in your own food or drink, or using your smartphone. And they’re open 24/7 365 days. Not only that, if you really need a break to stretch your legs you have plenty of space to get up and take a walk and then come back to work refreshed. Travelers are fun to watch if you’re into people watching, too.
The local hospital – While I wouldn’t venture into the emergency room to try and hang out there are plenty of waiting spaces at the local hospital and virtually no one is going to ask what you’re doing there. Some have wifi, some don’t. Do check before you go. But if you’re there for awhile, they’re sure to assume you’re waiting out a friend or family member’s surgery or emergency care. You might also spend some time in the cafeteria, generally one of the cheapest places in town to get a well-balanced, nutritionally-sound meal. The biggest caution is that this is a facility for sick people. Germs abound.
Barnes & Noble – great wifi, great coffee, and very pleasant surroundings. You can sit at one of the cafe tables, or find an easy chair among the books – and no one is going to say a thing about your carrying your food and drink in the store. Best of all, if you need to do some research via book or magazine, everything on the shelf is there for you to use at no charge, without any commitment to buy it. Just don’t spill on the merchandise.
Starbucks or other coffee houses – I’ve hung out at Starbucks for a couple of hours with just a cup of coffee and not been hassled, even when it got crowded. They’re just far too busy to notice, and it’s what they’re all about. HOWEVER, unless you get one of the easy chairs that get grabbed up quickly, you’re generally sitting at a table with a chair that is simply not designed to encourage long stays. That said, I’ve done it – and then was grateful for the comfy cushioning of my car’s seat. Of course, I have quite a bit of my own cushioning too.