How to Have a Good Working Lunch

I have long been an advocate for a good lunch break during the workday. As a home worker, I find a benefit in stepping away from the computer and having an intermission during the day. I am fortunate in that I can work almost anywhere, as long as I have a computer and access to the web, and I have come to appreciate the “working lunch.” Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean eating while hunkering over a computer. I have combined the need for a break with the joy a change of scenery brings to my work — the working lunch.

I try to have a decent lunch in a venue that is also conducive to having a good work session. I eat my lunch while reading a good e-book, and when I’m done I pull out the notebook and get to work. I find it relaxing to have my break, followed by a work session that requires no additional travel.

I bring either the Kindle (s amzn) or the iPhone (s aapl) to read while I eat. I have books in both Kindle and eReader (s bks) format, and the latter cannot be read on the Kindle. The iPhone can handle both formats, so if I bring it I can read any of my e-books. I prefer the Kindle, but for eReader books it’s the iPhone. It’s my favorite part of the day.

Once the fun part is done I get to work. I fire up the notebook, (since I am cloud-based it doesn’t matter which one I bring), and I jump on the web. I like to patronize eateries that have free Wi-Fi, and I’m finding more of those than in the past. I believe the cost of supplying a Wi-Fi hotspot for customers has probably dropped from just a year or two ago. I’ve been told by restaurant owners that the cost is now low enough they consider it a good investment.

Finding a venue with Wi-Fi is not always easy in the U.S. Some of the big chain restaurants have free Wi-Fi, McDonald’s (s mcd) and Panera Bread (s pnra) come to mind, but the trick is finding one with good working conditions. Having good food is a plus. Panera Bread is a solid choice that meets both requirements (good food and Wi-Fi), but I wouldn’t want to do that every day.

Many Americans are surprised when I point out that most Denny’s (s denn) restaurants now have free Wi-Fi. I’m not sure if it is a corporate policy, but I’m finding many of the locations I try do have it. The Denny’s near me has recently put up a sign touting the Wi-Fi, so perhaps they all will have it soon. I find it a comfortable place to work, and the bottomless coffee cups are nice.

I find the Open WiFi Spots web site to be a good source for finding open hotspots; they have a listing covering many cities in the U.S. I’m certain there are other online resources for finding free Wi-Fi; leave your favorites in the comments if you have them.

I don’t depend solely on having Wi-Fi during my working lunch, I also bring my pocket hotspot with me. The MiFi is the backup plan that has never let me down for connectivity. Even if I go to a place I’ve gone before, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that a given hotspot may be down. Since I require web access the MiFi has my back.

Just today I had an unusual circumstance that pointed out how wise it was to bring the MiFi. I frequent the place I visited for my working lunch, and the Wi-Fi was active as expected. Unusually, I was hit with the inability to work with the WordPress site, which is essential for my work. All other sites worked fine, with good speed, yet the WordPress site just looped while loading a page. I suspect something in the network configuration was causing WordPress to keep trying to make a connection, and failing. No problem, I hit the button on the MiFi and was in business in seconds. WordPress worked fine on the Verizon (s vz) 3G network.

The MiFi in particular is not essential, the 3G data access is the important thing. Any connection method is good, USB modems and 3G integrated into the computer work well. Some folks can tether a laptop to a 3G-enabled smartphone, and that works, too. The key is having the backup connectivity if your work is dependent on web access. Good 3G connectivity is even good enough for me to access my home computer, if needed.

My working lunches are nothing special, but they seem that way to me. It is my favorite part of the work day, and I feel rejuvenated when I have lunch this way. There’s really nothing special other than a change of pace (and scenery) in the often hectic day. I highly recommend these lunches.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Enabling the Web Work Revolution