Over the next few weeks Edge deputy editor, Alexis Thompson, will be leaving her desk to work from a variety of locations, including a coffee shop, her home and a drop-in office and writing a series of diary-style blogs to report on the pros/cons of each. This week she takes her laptop to her local Starbucks and spends the afternoon working from there
I’ve just finished reading an interesting book by PR entrepreneur Chris Ward called ‘Out of Office: work where you like & achieve more’. He says his inspiration for writing the book came after years of working from coffee shops with his laptop and latte in hand, and building a successful PR career from there. The idea of being able to work from a coffee shop has always appealed to me, as I’m sure it does to most people who are restricted to a 9 to 5 office environment. I like the idea on a wintery day of heading to my local coffee shop, ordering a full fat hot chocolate, and taking a seat by the window where I’ll spend the day working and staring out of the window (when I need a screen break) watching the world go by.
Unfortunately the nature of my job doesn’t really permit this – at least not every day, but I have decided as an experiment to try one day working from a coffee shop and to see if – as the book suggests – the relaxed environment of a coffee shop helps to boost creativity and productivity.
Friday 9th August
Had every intention of working from my local coffee shop in Brixton this morning but dismayed to find out that they have no Wi-Fi. I consider finding somewhere else nearby – Brixton has a Costa Coffee, Starbucks and plenty of quirky independent coffee shops so wouldn’t have had much of a problem – but realise how crucial it is to have internet connect this morning as I’ll be doing a live Twitter Q&A. I make a quick judgment that the office is actually the best place to be.
Arrive in office and switch on my computer. Quickly check emails then grab myself a cup of tea from the canteen downstairs – not quite the same as a Starbucks Frappuccino but it will do for now.
10am-11.30am: Twitter Q&A not taking place until later this morning but decide to stay in the office as need to catch up on emails and complete various other office-based tasks.
12noon -1.30pm: Twitter Q&A done. Next get ready for a meeting with a PR contact in a local coffee shop close to the office. Finally getting out to my coffee shop! Don’t have time to grab lunch, so feeling a little hungry.
1.30-2.30pm: Productive meeting and was sat on a table outside so was nice to catch some afternoon sunshine. Enjoyed a pot of Earl Gray tea (actually not a big fan of coffee!), courtesy of my friendly PR contact and discussed potential feature ideas/interviews for the magazine.
2.30-2.45pm: Decide to move on after meeting and find another coffee shop nearby to spend the afternoon working from just for variety.
2.45pm-3pm: Try Café Nero just around the corner from our office, but very busy and not many seats available. Decide to head to Starbucks instead.
3pm-3.30pm: Starbucks looking quieter with plenty of space. Very hungry now, so the first thing I do is grab some food and an orange juice, and then ask about the Wi-Fi, which is free in Starbucks luckily.
3.30pm-4pm: Find a quiet spot to work from where I set up my laptop, connect to the internet which proved to be easy enough, and then settle down to write up my Twitter Q&A from this morning for an article online. Annoyingly I lose my internet connection half way through, so spend 10 to 20 minutes trying to re-connect – feel that this is a loss of valuable time. Eventually get it up and running again and I’m able to finish my article.
4pm-5pm: Finishing off a few others tasks but notice that that the music is getting increasingly loud, which is a little distracting. But the gentle hum of customers chatting in the background has actually helped me to focus, plus I’m starting to feel more relaxed as I settle back into the leather sofa with my laptop on my knee and this helps my flow of thought.
5pm-5.30pm: Fancy another tea but have no money on me – probably a good thing to stop me spending needlessly. Also need to go the toilet but realise I’ll have to wait until I pack everything away before going as can’t leave my laptop unattended at the table. All in all though, I feel it has been a productive afternoon once I finally settled down to work.
I obviously felt more relaxed working from a coffee shop then I do in the office and aside from the music there were definitely less distractions. I felt it was productive and it certainly enabled me to think more creatively as I wasn’t side tracked by day-to-day office tasks, such as answering phones or attending meetings. However, it did take a while to get settled and into the flow of things, and I did waste 10-20 minutes trying to re-connect to the internet. Working from a coffee shop certainly has its advantages but it would be difficult if you didn’t have a laptop and access to emails, etc. Also there were certain tasks which I felt I had to be in the office for, hence why I only ended up spending an afternoon in a coffee shop. If you can afford to spend a bit of time out the office and can bring your laptop/ work with you then it’s definitely worth a try. Just keep in mind that it can get costly if you're drinking quite a lot of coffee and ordering food as well, plus make sure you choose your coffee shop wisely – you ideally need somewhere low-key, quiet and with plenty of space available.