Where Do You Work Best?

Some people need absolute, morgue-like silence to get real work done. Others are content to type away amidst chaos like chattering coworkers or screaming kids. As a work-at-home freelancer, I love being able to vary my work environment. It was tough when I had roommates who watched TV in my “office” (also a corner of the living room), but I managed to bang out dozens of articles, blog posts, and copywriting assignments.

Now I alternate between rocking out to show tunes in my home office (blissfully devoid of coworkers or kids) or heading to the library or a coffee shop to change things up and be among other people. I’ve even been known to type on the subway with my netbook, but that’s far from ideal for me.

What about you? What’s your ideal work environment? Does silence make you nervous? Do you need a little background noise? Or do you prefer peace and quiet?

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Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe, Mint.com’s blog, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog, UrbanMuseWriter.com, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. Alicia on the 22nd June

    I don’t work well at coffee shops or even my favorite indie bookstore (they’re great to get away to, though). I work best in my home office, earphones tucked in, music blasting, in my own wold.

  2. Muhammad Ghazali on the 22nd June

    Dependent on my food, but I prefer peace and quiet place to work.

  3. Damon on the 22nd June

    I am much like you. Prefer the home office, but can sit almost anywhere with the laptop as long as I don’t have people asking me questions. Just bought a pair of Sony noise canceling headphones which help me focus when I need to. Actually I prefer to listen to music when I code and design. About three months before I left my FT job for freelancing my company stopping allowing us to listed to music. My productivity went way down because other emplyees always wanted to have their meetings right next to my desk. How can people concentrate like that?

  4. Stefan Wallin on the 22nd June

    I work best, at any place where I have a internet connection, a good seat and table where there is a lot of people but I can have my headphones tucked in without ever getting disturbed. So most prominently a wifi enabled coffee shop where I have been able to set up a refillagreement with the personal. Best are to in the morning beeing able to preorder meals for lunch and dinner and have them served at the right moment during the day.

  5. Marco on the 22nd June

    I prefer to work in my home office with a bit of music playing

  6. wongpk on the 22nd June

    My messy room… That’s the most coziest location that I can work full-force 😀

  7. Rasmus P. on the 22nd June

    I work in my bedroom, where my office is.

    And i work best there obv. But also i work best at night, and while i listen to some of my favorite music.

    If I listen to music, it’s night, then i can keep going to the break of dawn 🙂

  8. silvia on the 23rd June

    I like to work generally with other persons. When I work, in fact, I need to take small breaks which are more effective if I can talk to someone leaving the keyboard for a while.

  9. Vunky on the 23rd June

    The best worn environment for me is at home in the early mornings or late nights.

    I don’t like sitting in a coffee shop with my laptop. How can that beat a 20-inch mac with a nice large deck at home?

    Paper and pen works best for me when sitting in a coffeeshop.

  10. I need absolute silence to work and concentrate.

    My productivity goes downhill if there is noise or someone is present near me.

    A great example:

    My 10 year old cousin has come to stay over. I can hardly get any work done whenever he is around.

    So I need silence to get my work done!


  11. Daniel Groves on the 23rd June

    Just me and my music 🙂 If people are talking to me, I just cannot work, but I do like some background noise. Coffee shop would be ideal for me but I live in a small village. And I wouldn’t be able to take my 20″ external monitor with me for my MacBook =[

  12. Ashley Hill on the 23rd June

    I do my work on a laptop, so I can pretty much go anywhere. My usual haunt is sitting here on the couch, but I’d prefer my office if we didn’t have a roommate in there for now.

    I don’t mind schlepping to the coffee house, but I prefer those for client meetings rather than work.

    As far as noise, I’m typing this as the TV is blaring, and I’m pretty good about ignoring noises, but sometimes I have to stick in the earphones and play some music when I want to be left alone.

  13. Coe Douglas on the 23rd June

    I really dig this post. I’ve had this very discussion with a bunch of freelancers I know. I love the range of responses these questions receive.

    For me, it’s cafes and coffee houses. I’m a writer so all I need is my MacBook Pro and I’m good to go. As much as I love silence for so many things, location has a big impact on my state of mind and is a big source of inspiration for me. If the cafe is playing something by John Coltrane or Miles Davis, all the better.

    Being outside, surrounded by trees is good, too.

  14. Tomek on the 23rd June

    anywhere there is a computer, a pair of headphones and I have access to Trance.

    • Tomek on the 23rd June

      the music totally allows me to focus.

  15. David on the 23rd June

    “Setting myself up” somehow only makes things worse. My best sessions are often when I’ve started work without remembering to turn on the lights, put music on, or even get dressed. I can work through extreme hunger, not go to the toilet for half a day and shut the entire universe out when I get into that zone. Of course, once the spell breaks, that’s it.

  16. Jens P. Berget on the 23rd June

    I’m not really sure where I work best. I like to alternate, but it’s awesome to have some background music and to have some sort of noise. I can’t stand it when it’s all quite.

    I work in an office with a lot of people close by, and sometimes I work at home where I’m all alone.

  17. Susan Johnston on the 23rd June

    Thank you, everyone who weighed in! One of the tricks I use in coffee shops is leaving my AC adapter at home, so I have to type quickly to finish my assignment before the battery dies. That way I spend less time procrastinating online!

  18. Alison Rowan on the 17th August

    For me, my public library is ideal. They’ve got a great set up with tables and plenty of outlets on the second floor, just around the corner from a counter selling your typical coffee shop items, and the free wifi doesn’t hurt, either. For me, there’s something about being in a library that just makes me sit down, be quiet, and do what I need to do.

  19. Paw on the 16th February

    If it comes to web design, the only environment i know is my “bedroom office”. I love working either early in the morning or late at night with my Logitech G35’s on my head.
    I have noticed that music helps me a lot while designing and I think I am the most productive when noone is around. Thats when I’m in my world. Happy to be able to do what i love.

    I’m going to go a little off topic here but i have to admit that keeping this work-life balance mentioned in the other post is something very hard for me…

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