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Are we ‘laptop hobos’?

I read an article recently that talked about several Coffee Shops and Cafes where owners are choosing to limit the ability of people working from their location to ‘hang out’ or setup shop for extended periods.

It got me thinking about the way I work and if it could be accurately labeled as hanging out. More importantly, does working for hours on end from a Cafe adversely affect the business or its patrons?

I talk to a lot of people about working from Coffee Shops and Cafes. These places are my preferred working environment and there are lots of others just like me. There is no shortage of interesting people I can speak with at every location I frequent. I also talk to a fair number of Coffee Shop and Cafe owners. They’re an important part of the ongoing conversation and often provide valuable insight into the nuances of having crowds of people working from their businesses.

Here are some of the insights that have been shared with me by owners.

We welcome people working from our shops

Nobody wants to go to an empty Coffee Shop. Having people working from here makes the shop appear busy and that brings in more people.

This is something I had not thought about prior to hearing it. The social aspect of working from Coffee Shops has been a personal draw, and it seems that others feel the same. When a person walks into a Coffee Shop, they are more likely to stay for a while if others already there. People who work from Coffee Shops and Cafes are typically around for several hours at a time and this helps to create a busy environment more consistently throughout the day.

Furthermore, I’m told that a significant amount of the money spent at these businesses comes from the pockets of the people who are there while getting work done. One owner emphasized “I know where my business comes from. I want people to work from my shop.

It’s important that everyone respect the available space

It’s difficult when someone takes up an entire table that could otherwise be enjoyed a few people.

Makes a ton of sense and it’s something I’m cognisant when setting up shop. If a person has trouble finding a place to comfortably sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, they are likely to leave and that hurts business. I’m told that most people do a good job of respecting and sharing the space available at Coffee Shops and Cafes, but a few bad apples continue to give the rest of us a bad name.

At times our customer base shifts and the balance can be tricky

On weekends we’ve begun serving brunch and this means there are more people here dining and they need more space to do that.

Some businesses have more diverse patrons than others. At locations that serve a full menu, there are often times when patrons come only to eat and enjoy the tables for extended periods with friends and family. When this happens it can become challenging for business owner to meet the needs of all patrons.

One owner says to me “I’m busy getting food prepared and out to each table and then the WiFi goes down. Someone who’s here working will ask me to reset the router and I simply can’t get away to do that for 5-10 minutes. This becomes frustrating for everyone and I don’t want my customers frustrated at all.

The point made underscores some of the difficulties these Coffee Shops and Cafes encounter when providing a work-friendly environment. They provide WiFi, power outlets, comfortable seating and more for those who do want to get some work done but these things do require effort. Maintaining a wireless network, for example, often takes a business owner out of their comfort zone and away from what they are passionate about. Here at Workfrom we are looking at ways to take the hassles of making a safe, secure, reliable wireless network available and keeping it in good health. This has been very well received by many of the businesses we’ve talked to.

In the comments below, please let us know about the insights you have into the experience of working from Coffee Shops and Cafes. Either as a patron or business owner.


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