Feb 12, 2024 - Food and Drink

Where to work remote in downtown Chicago

work table

The Randolph side lobby of the Cultural Center offers tables, chairs, couches and lots of outlets for charging your stuff while you work. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Office occupancy rates in Chicago continue to hover around 56% of their pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent Crain's analysis of Kastle Systems card swipe data.

Why it matters: A good chunk of former downtown regulars may no longer have a desk when they head into the city for occasional meetings and appointments.

State of play: Chicago is actually pretty affordable when it comes to renting co-working space, on par with much smaller towns.

  • The median monthly rate for a desk in an open office starts at $125 and $269 for a dedicated desk, according to an analysis of January data by CoworkingCafe.
  • In New York, those same desks would cost $239 and $425 a month.

Zoom in: For those looking for a spot to work downtown with less of a commitment, we've got some suggestions.

Chicago Cultural Center

woman with computer
Carrie enjoys a view of Michigan Avenue from her toasty perch in the G.A.R. room at the Cultural Center. Photo: Monica Eng

The city makes it easy to work in one of Chicago's most beautiful buildings, with lots of tables, chairs, couches and outlets in the first floor lobby.

  • Plus great views from the center's gorgeous upstairs rooms, like Preston Bradley Hall and G.A.R., as long as they're not reserved for events.

Cost: Free until doors close at 5pm.

Extras: Decent public bathrooms

Newberry Library

library
Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

The Newberry in Gold Coast has a nice nook that feels like a coffee shop without any loud music or espresso machines.

Cost:
Free and times vary.

Extras: Nice restrooms and one of the largest postcard collections in the world!

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

woman with computer
Monica enjoys tea, people-watching and working at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

This place can be mobbed on weekends and the holidays, but it's pretty easy to snag a plum upper-level window seat on most weekday afternoons.

Cost: $7 with tip for a large mug of green tea and one of the best cafe views in the city.

Extras: Good bathrooms, free WiFi, plus plentiful food and drink options (if you're willing to pay up).

Yes, but: We couldn't find a single exposed outlet.

Happy Monday Coffee

bear drink
It's not just cuteness. The coffee is good, too! Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

There's a Loop location, but the River North location of this coffee shop on the ground floor of a residential building is surprisingly quiet and relaxing, with plush couches.

Cost: $8 plus tip for the Thyme is Honey latte but you get to keep the cute plastic bear cup.

Extra: They also offer THC-infused drinks.

Xoco

woman with sandwich
Xoco makes for a quiet afternoon work spot with WiFi and more. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Busy lunch spots, like Xoco, often turn into calm work spots after 2pm. Monica loved munching on a cochinita pibil torta in total peace as she wrote the newsletter on a recent afternoon.

Cost: Get a hot chocolate and churro for $8 or freshly made torta for $14-$15.

Extras: Unisex bathroom, outlets near many tables and free WiFi shared with Frontera Grill.

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