“Do you guys have an office?” I’m often asked.
“No. We work out of coffee shops.”
“They don’t mind?”
It’s a question I hear a lot. My company, Workfrom, is built around the premise that awesome things happen when we expand the relationship between vendor and patron. By enabling a community of mobile workers to share their favorite spaces for getting work done outside of the home or office, we spotlight over 1,000 coffee shops around the world.
It’s no surprise that coffee shops are popular destinations for remote workers wanting a place to stay awhile, to work on a wide variety of projects. But is that why entrepreneurs take the risk to open their own coffee shop — to create a communal space where people like us can work alongside strangers for varied lengths of time?
You may be surprised to hear that many coffee shop owners — entrepreneurs just like the ones “setting up shop” in their cafes — do want us there working on our laptops, sketching in notebooks, crafting, meeting others, creating something awesome.
We recently had the pleasure of putting on the first Portland Coworking Week — a collection of discussions and community events bringing together the people who make collaborative spaces and the people who work in them.
We invited three local, independent coffee shop owners to discuss the visible trend of people working from coffee shops. Workfrom CEO Darren Buckner asked “what have you seen in the last 5 years, what effects has that had on your business, where do you see it in the future and how will you be a part of that?”
Owner of Portland’s 24 hour Southeast Grind Kacey Birch confessed that she’s in the relationship business and happens to serve coffee and offer healthy food options for the late-night crowd.
I’ve seen so many projects that have blossomed in a coffee shop. My husband, for example […] found someone just by chitchatting in the cafe and they’re now building net positive green buildings in Tigard that are going above and beyond LEED certification. […] We try and encourage that as much as possibly by creating a space for workers that is very inviting and friendly and encourage people to open up and chit chat and get to know each other.
How does she and her staff encourage connections? Until recently, it was the only 24 hr coffee shop in the city and very popular in the wee hours with students, writers, programmers and service industry workers. When the place would start to fill, she’d look for a backpack taking up a seat, politely move it and introduce the person in need of a spot with the owner of the bag.
Collin Jones, owner of the popular Crema Coffee and Bakery, shares a similar philosophy and leaves the match making to the community.
When I think about the environment of a coffee house, […] it’s not like at a restaurant where you’ve got these tables that are candle-lit so you don’t have to see anyone else around you. Coffee, a slice of pie, pastries, light sandwiches [are] a social kind of food where people can sit and chat and get to know each other in a casual environment.
It’s a natural fit for people who want to sit down and work somewhere and don’t want to rent out by the hour, partly to cut cost but because you might as well be in your office or in your home [when] the goal is to get out, breathe some fresh air, and have more external stimulation to spark your brain.
Expanding on the trend, Sam Purvis, cofounder of creative agency Sincerely Truman and Portland’s new Good Coffee, expressed his appreciation of the working environment moving “from the home or the office — a more insular environment — to the public square.”
I’m a big believer that when people are working together in inspiring environments, they do better work on the whole. I’ve always wanted to be involved with companies who sit at the intersection between real human beings and emerging culture. There are a lot of ways you can design physical spaces to create that for people.
When you walk into a Good Coffee, you can tell they’re trying out some of those ways.
But “Jewel,” you’re thinking. Clearly these three fabulous humans can’t speak for every coffee house in business?
Yes and No. Variety is the spice of life. Some cafes are meant to be an ode to an older age and an analog oasis in this increasingly digital world we live in.
One of the many reasons I live and breathe Workfrom is our ability to help differentiate between those spaces that welcome the digital mobile worker from those don’t, so everyone can feel a sense of belonging somewhere.