I travel frequently for story assignments. When I do, I have a hard time finding good places to work. Holing up in a hotel room is dull, and coffee shops tend to be noisy and ill suited for meetings. So when I read about a new crop of websites designed to help you find a temporary workspace, I was eager to give one a whirl. I researched a handful of options, including LooseCubes and OpenDesks, before choosing LiquidSpace, which seemed to have the most features, including a mobile app. The free service launched this spring and is available in about a dozen cities nationwide, including San Francisco, Boston, and Miami.
One morning, during a recent reporting trip to San Francisco, I ventured into the SoMa district without a specific plan about where to work. I fired up the LiquidSpace app on my iPhone and began looking for a spot, filtering my search by location, arrival time, and length of stay (options range from one hour to one year). Within seconds, the app suggested a few nearby options that filled the bill. After browsing the listings, which included photos and information about prices, amenities, and locations, I chose NextSpace, a co-working facility a few blocks away that charged $20 for a day pass. I booked and paid for the space right on the app, which supplied a map and directions. So far, I was impressed.
When I arrived at NextSpace a few minutes later, I checked in with a friendly clerk who found my reservation on her computer right away. The office, which has exposed brick walls, trendy décor, and a lounge area, has an entrepreneurial vibe, with company banners hanging above several desks. A clerk showed me to a simple desk with no phone or computer in a room with several other workers. I opened my laptop, tapped into the NextSpace Wi-Fi network, and worked for a couple of hours. Next, I set up shop in a conference room equipped with a speakerphone and projector screen. I sampled the free coffee and snacks in the kitchen and printed some files. I also chatted with a few other writers and a designer.
Overall, the experience was a big improvement over squatting in a Starbucks, and LiquidSpace made finding and booking the space a breeze. My only gripe: The app's Thumbs-up/Thumbs-down rating system is simplistic. I'd prefer a ranking system similar to TripAdvisor's and detailed user reviews. (Maybe then I would have been forewarned that NextSpace charges 10 cents each for photocopies.) Still, I plan to use the app the next time I travel, and I would recommend it to other road warriors looking for a temporary home away from home.