With the global remote worker population expected to reach 1.3 billion this year, we are witnessing an unprecedented growth in flexible work situations.
Remote working no longer means working from home. It can be any number of technology-enabled spaces including the 'coffice' (coffee shop meets office), which is becoming one of the many workplace destinations for both corporate employees and cubicle-free professionals alike.
Of course, as with any workstyle, the coffice comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Whether you're making your own daily workplace arrangements or satisfying your company's telework policies, here are 10 things to consider before working from a coffice:
1. Confirm corporate policies. Despite Yahoo!'s move (and Reddit's more recently) to repeal their remote work policies, companies around the globe are recognizing the value of offering flexible work situations to employees. Work life balance, overhead savings and a wider talent pool selection are just some of the reasons.
If you're hoping to get approval from management or HR to work remotely, confirm the coffice is in fact a viable option. For some companies working remotely does not equal working in public spaces. Best to find out before deciding to set out for your local coffee shop.
2. Ensure your work is sufficiently secure. Whether you work for a company with progressive remote work policies or you're a solopreneur, security and privacy should always be top of mind for you and your business. There are two major risks requiring your attention before deciding to go the coffice route: digital security and proximal privacy.
There is no such thing as a secure coffice WiFi network. However, the closest thing you'll come to it is connecting through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A corporate VPN will likely be a requirement for any employee working remotely.
Regardless of how much security you have for your laptop or mobile device, the other risk of working from a coffice is that others will overhear what you're talking about or they can view your laptop screen contents. If the nature of your work is in any way sensitive or confidential, then working from a coffice isn't an option.
3. Noise pollution Whether it's the usual hum, whir and clink of coffice infrastructure, loud music coming from the speakers or the combined chatter of adults and kids, it's safe to say if silence – or predictable ebbs and flows of sounds – are a requirement for your work, then the coffice is not for you.
If you're unsure about your ability to work through noise distractions, check out Coffitivity.com for a virtual soundscape of the coffice work experience. Mix it with some music -- then try working. If you find yourself being productive, in spite of the noise (and if all other factors are in your favour) then give the coffice a shot.
4. Visual distraction. The coffice is overflowing with visual stimuli. If you get distracted easily this can present a real problem. But like open work spaces, it's a reality and there are ways to address it. Try sitting at a table facing a wall or choose a spot in the coffice with less traffic.
Another helpful way to curb visual distraction is by lowering the often-accompanying audio distractions. Use noise cancelling ear gear or a pair of drugstore purchased earplugs.
5. Prerequisites. Not unlike the configuration of any other office space to maximize job performance, plenty of planning and preparation goes into the coffice workstyle. There's no IT department nearby, no printers and the WiFi is neither consistent nor guaranteed.
Ask yourself if you could do your job without these things. If not, what's your backup plan? What are the various "soft" tools and resources required to do your work? Do you have enough space in the cloud to back up your work? Who can you call today (now?) if your tablet goes on the fritz? Could you do any of your work with just a pen and paper?
Naturally, if you require highly specialized equipment, substantial support or gear, working from a coffice is likely not ideal for you. But if all you require is a work bag with a laptop and its various peripherals, such as cords, extra power, portable mouse, etc., then the checklist of essential office supplies is much shorter, making the coffice a viable workstyle choice.
6. Budget. While the savings from any number of commute-free workdays can really add up, expenses incurred from the coffice workstyle do exist. If you're responsible, you should support the coffee shop with purchases throughout your time there and spending more on coffee and food than when you had leftovers from your employer's boardroom lunch meetings or homemade snacks.
You might also need to allocate funds for a few items to better prepare for your newfound coffice-based work – a durable laptop bag, software, hardware, better earbuds, and other key essentials. Pay careful attention to how your finances might be impacted, positively or negatively.
7. Ergonomics. Unlike some office set ups, ergonomic work spaces are not the priority for coffee shops. No specialist will come in to ensure your seat/table/laptop alignment is ideal for your posture or to alleviate concerns of carpal tunnel syndrome.
If these are genuine issues for you on a day-to-day basis then you may need to consider a workstyle that involves more predictable seating arrangements. Naturally if you only need a small cushion or pillow to address your seating needs, then finding a portable option is something to add to your coffice needs list.
8. Location. Before settling into a coffice, consider the location thoughtfully. This includes its proximity to the other factors that may matter during your work day (i.e. the office, school pick up, home, etc.), and with that, the ease of travel and parking.
If parking at your preferred coffice cuts into your coffee or food budget, it's not ideal. If travel to your coffice takes as long as a daily commute, it may negatively impact your workday in other ways, as well as negate some important benefits to telecommuting.
Also consider who else uses the coffice as their workplace; some coffices afford great networking opportunities. Others may be the choice destination for the local high school and will be much busier/louder during the day.
9. Policies. If you've navigated tips one to eight and decided that working from a coffice is for you, be sure to confirm it's also something that works for your coffice of choice. Some coffices have WiFi limits or seating time limits (or no WiFi at all). Others will welcome you with open arms for eight hours straight – provided you support their business throughout your time there; namely with regular purchases. Confirm with management or other customers that your extended use of the space is welcomed and on what terms.
10. Plan B. You know what they say about the best-laid plans. You may decide working from the coffice is ideal for you, but on any given day that option may not be available to you (i.e., transportation issues, budget constraints, coffice power outage, etc.). This is why you need a back up plan – perhaps more than one. Whether it's a home office, co-working space, shared rental workspace or your local public library, it's essential to have Plan B ready to deploy.