With mobile technologies changing work styles, consultants, teleworkers and other self-employed entrepreneurs are setting up their virtual office at the neighborhood coffee shop, effectively bringing a professional workspace into a social environment. So, is the coffee shop the new “corner office” for employees on the cutting edge?
Coffee and Work: A Dynamic Duo
Coffeehouses have never just been places for simple chitchat: over the centuries they’ve doubled as formal or informal places of business. In the 17th century, for example, it was in the coffeehouse that merchants and insurance brokers haggled over prices or concluded new contracts.
In fact, there’s always been a strong link between coffee and work. The coffee break, after all, has become an integral part of the global workday. Chrysler employees nearly called a strike in1964 when their “fundamental right” to the coffee break was threatened.
More recently, the advent of mobile work stations has strengthened the link between coffee and work. With more and more self-employed and remote employees, any location equipped with electrical outlets, a Wifi connection and, of course, coffee has become the place to be.
The Changing Labor Market
It’s a well-known fact that employees are now more independent, more mobile and more connected. According to the Nonemployer Statistics Report, an average 2,346 people launch a new one-person business in the United States every day.
Given this rise in entrepreneurship as well as in teleworking, the home office is now the business paradigm of the 21st century.
At the same time, however, working from home does have negative aspects: employees feel increasingly isolated and miss interacting with their peers. Add to this a desire to keep the workplace and home separate, and we see today’s workers migrating to community venues such as their local coffee shop. And amazingly, companies don’t seem to have a problem with this. So who’s the big winner? The coffeehouse, with its free Internet connection and large, cozy armchairs! In the US, this trend has become increasingly popular throughout the United States. In Europe, the professional twist on coffeehouse visits has yet to catch on.
That said, the ever-expanding presence of Starbucks across the globe shows that this trend is indeed growing. “We’ve seen a noticeable increase in the number of people using the Internet in our stores, to research and write books and start their own businesses,” says Brian Waring, the chain’s Vice President of Marketing.
So is it really a good idea to move the professional workplace to a venue known more for good company than for contemplation?
Coffeehouse Office Energy
In his article, “Why You Should Work From a Coffee Shop, Even When You Have an Office,” Wesley Verhoeve makes the claim that regularly changing your workplace actually stimulates creativity. In effect, routine is the enemy of creativity and productivity. What’s more, the coffeehouse, with its anonymous environment, actually cuts down on distraction from fellow workmates. Workers are free to choose whether or not to engage with the people around them—not like in a traditional office, where interaction with co-workers is expected.
More than that, coffeehouse conversations take place in a stimulating professional environment where employees might gain new perspectives, which in turn could lead to—surprise surprise!—new ideas for their work.
It goes without saying that a few rules need to be followed if you’re going to successfully set up a virtual office in a coffee shop: change locations from time to time to avoid getting into a stale routine; choose a calm environment; and be sure to buy a few cups of coffee so you’ll be a contributing customer. That done and you’re ready for your caffeine-charged business day!