If you’ve never done it, working from home seems like the dream – and I have to admit there can be real joy in a 20 step commute to ‘the office’, a uniform which can happily incorporate novelty pyjama bottoms, and full control of the radio dial.
But, as a semi-regular home-worker, I find it’s not always the greatest. We humans are flawed creatures; prone to distractions, loneliness and chocolate-eating.
I’m never one to actively procrastinate; I’ve truthfully never binged on box sets in work hours – I couldn’t live with the guilt or build-up of emails. But other things shift my focus from report writing and Excel spreadsheets – mainly, despairing over my messy house. It’s true there’s no risk of distraction from work colleagues at home, and this can be a massive bonus when I need to be completely absorbed in something without any interruptions. But equally being alone for too long is rubbish. On these days, I’m so desperate for company I’ll make up reasons to call my boss and am a little too keen to make conversation with anyone/thing I come into contact with (the postman, fellow shoppers in the Co-op, Siri.)
Of course there’s an alternative, and one that seems to fix many of my issues with home working. It does require me to lose the PJs, but for some reason my productivity levels soar when I move my portable office (i.e. laptop, notepad and phone) to a cafe.
And we’re lucky in Leicester to have loads of great independent coffee spots with friendly staff and fast wifi. I’ve profiled just a few places I’ve worked from in the past couple of weeks, but you should know it’s by no means an exhaustive list.
But before you read them, just a quick guide to not-taking-the-piss. Yes, I might have paid for a flat white, but this does not entitle me to be kept warm, connected and fully charged for a whole day. So I stand by the following:
As a general rule, one coffee equals 60 to 90 minutes of work time. If you’re also having breakfast/lunch, you can just about push this to two hours.
Be open to sharing your space, especially if the place is rammed.
Location: 104 Queens Road, LE2 3FL
Open: 8am-6.30pm (Mon to Fri) 9am-5pm (Sat) 9.30am-3pm (Sun)
My last visit: 11.15am on Tuesday
Wifi: Yes – with password.
Power points: None that I could see from where I was sitting.
Nourishment: Excellent coffee (a flat white costs £2.40) – plus various tea options. Tempting cakes and pastries, small menu of sandwiches and salads.
Space: Quite trendy, but not in snotty way. Lots of bare wood, and shoes. It’s not huge (so often no space on Saturdays) but there are a few different seating options, inside and outside. The background was largely chilled acoustic music (think Bon Iver and José González) plus the chatter of others. Quiet enough to think, loud enough to join a conference call without feeling like an idiot.
People: At the time I visited, there were a couple of other people working on laptops, plus two guys having a meeting and a student reading a book. It’s also a popular stop for people shopping in Clarendon Park or just catching up with friends. Chatty staff.
Pros: Best flat white in town (IMO), it’s also a designer shoe shop, not in the city centre.
Cons: Shoe purchase could wipe out savings, not in the city centre.
St Martin’s Coffee
Location: St Martin’s Square, LE1 5DG
Open: 9am-5pm (Mon to Sat) 11am-4pm (Sun)
My last visit: 2.30pm on Thursday.
Wifi: Super easy to get onto with password (my laptop now automatically connects).
Nourishment: Coffee is the big one, but there’s also a whole menu of loose leaf teas, plus plenty of cold drinks. Good selection of quality breakfast, lunch and sweet treats on offer (avocado and feta on sourdough recommended).
Space: Two floors with plenty of different seating options, with an eclectic mix of décor and furniture. Despite being large it feels pretty homely, and there’s plenty of places to tuck yourself away. Chilled background music.
People: Mixture of customers working and socialising. I’m always spotting creative types in here (this time, House of Verse’s Jen Hibberd) and it feels like a great place for meetings and collaborations. Staff are always friendly – the woman who took my order was super patient with an older couple in front of me.
Pros: Great coffee, central location, great place to bump into people.
Cons: Couldn’t spot many power points.
Grays at Lcb Depot
Location: 31 Rutland Street, LE1 1RE
Open: 8.30am-5pm (Mon to Fri)
My last visit: 10am on Friday.
Wifi: Simple login required, I got kicked off once but easily reconnected.
Nourishment: My cuppa was cheap at £1.50, but other hot options and varying food menu which has good reviews – open for brekkie!
Space: LCB Depot is the hub for a number of creative businesses in the city, and the space is used for all manner of happenings. There’s an industrial style to Grays Cafe, but it’s still a comfortable place to work with lots of lighting. The background music was more upbeat than some of the other cafes, but not distracting.
People: The guy who served me was really interested in what I was working on – and even recommended some other cafes to me! The space is clearly used by a lot of creative types and the staff seem to know a lot of their customers who popped by to grab drinks and pay debts.
Pros: Great space for a meeting and finding out what’s on, right in the Cultural Quarter.
Cons: Maybe not as cosy as some places.
Location: 4 Midland Street, LE1 1TG
Open: 9am-11pm (Mon to Fri) 10am-11pm (Sat and Sun)
My last visit: 11.15am on Friday.
Wifi: The password is printed on a slip of paper which you can get at the bar.
Nourishment: The cafe serve St Martin’s coffee, plus a whole range of other hot/cold drinks, including alcohol (if you’re having a particularly tough/great work day). Full menu of food served for most of the day.
Space: The cafe is part of Leicester’s independent cinema, with lots of seats and tables, nice and bright, modern. Mix of tunes in the background (only got distracted by Fleetwood Mac and the Twin Peaks theme tune).
People: Staff were friendly – we ended up chatting about how they’ve compiled the music playlist over a number of years, and at what point it’s acceptable to start playing the Christmas mix (they correctly said December). Customer wise, I was the only one to start, but it got much busier as we approached midday. The place is often packed just before films, particularly in the evenings, and it used at regular points in the week for various local group meetings (e.g. Seven Five Productions) – something to consider if you need a quiet space to work, but equally if you’re looking to make some new contacts!
Pros: It’s open all day, easy to watch a film when you need a break.
Cons: It can get pretty packed at time, chairs aren’t the most comfy.
6 Degrees Coffee House
Location: 108 London Road, LE2 0QS
Open: 8.30am-5.30pm (Mon to Fri) 9.30am-4.30pm (Sat)
My last (and first!) visit: 12.45pm on Friday.
Wifi: Easy to get on with code and fast.
Nourishment: Also serve St Martin’s coffee – smoothies and hot chocs also looked tempting. I had a simple but delicious goats cheese, tomato and chilli sauce toastie.
Space: All profits from this small cafe go to the charity, Open Hands Trust – which helps improve lives in Leicester. It feels very homely and welcoming, with a mixture of tables, high stools and comfy sofas. Good level of background music, with bonus points for playing Public Service Broadcasting.
People: A mixture of people socialising, holding meetings and working on laptops. The staff are volunteers and the girl who served me was super friendly.
Pros: Convenient if you’ve got a train to catch, your coffee money goes directly to charity.
Cons: Not so great if you need to be right in the city centre.