laptops and coffee shops

Where do architects “work” these days?

Should coffee shops limit the amount of time that laptop users can occupy tables? The answer to this question is no. I like to think of them as my second office. I pay “rent” by buying food and drink. The cool thing about technology today is we can work anywhere. No longer are we relegated to work in an “office”. Work can take place anywhere that allows one to be productive. Being a sole-proprietor allows a degree of flexibility not afforded some others.

What do you think? Do you like to work in places other than your office? Does it help your design process or thinking if you get a change of environment sometimes? What is a fair way to treat these shops without taking advantage of them?

Do clients care where we work as long as we are productive, efficient and provide excellent service? From the point of view of the coffee shop, what should their policy be? How can they enforce it without insulting customers? Is it frustrating to other customers if they merely wish to eat and drink in the coffee shop without being surrounded by laptop hobos?

Can design solve this? What if the tables were laid out with more two-seaters (with electrical plugs) and other areas with four-tops and booths?

If you enjoy working on a laptop in a coffee shop, be respectful. Don’t abuse their policies and don’t be a booth hog. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us. See you at the coffee shop. If you see me, say hi.

photo is from samantha celera’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

laptops and coffee shops

7 thoughts on “laptops and coffee shops

  1. There are two problems. Bad coffee shops who don’t “get it” and customers who don’t “get it”.

    The coffee shops who don’t get it are as follows: ones with no outlets, bad outlets (loose with black marks around them), ones that require secret passwords to login (thus ensuring you can’t start work until you’ve gone through the line which may be especially long at times, so shame on you if you sit down and get situated while waiting for a break in the line, rather than stand in the line for 12 minutes).

    The customers who don’t get it are the ones who think they shouldn’t hang out if the internet isn’t working, the ones who bury their heads in their work and are anti-social, and the ones who come to coffee shops to upload or download gigabytes of stuff.

    I once met a guy who would go to a Starbucks in Florida and buy a single cup of regular coffee (maybe $1.10?), start uploading massive HD videos to his website (he was a photographer who took pictures and videos of school sporting teams all over Florida) and then, go around to anyone else with a computer and ask them questions about their model, what apps they use, what they like to do on the internet, and of course, eventually start talking about himself and his “super-profitable” business. Needless to say, he didn’t have the social class to understand the coffee shop staff hated him. He would hang out for 6-7 hours a day at one coffee shop, then migrate to another Starbucks a few miles away, but not before running through McDonald’s and buying some junk food off the dollar menu. He would proudly tell anyone about this, declaring that Starbuck’s food prices were a rip-off. The first time I met him, I seriously thought it was part of a hidden-camera prank. He would ask people for their email address so he could keep in touch. I lied about mine. I felt bad but later after seeing him doing this again and again, I didn’t feel so bad.

    I don’t know what the solution is… maybe iPads and no more anti-social laptops?… but it is a problem.

    Still, if you ask me, the absolute worst kind of “office worker” who uses a coffee shop as his place of business isn’t the laptop people at all. It’s the schmoes who use it as a place to interview new hires for some job… usually sales jobs, or contractors looking to fill gaps for their present in-town labor needs. They sit and order one latte and stay there for hours as people come in and out, while they shuffle through resumes, make numerous cell phone calls, and force all their prospective hires to answer grueling questions where people nearby listen to all their personal information. What’s difficult for me is to keep quiet when I hear the boss tell each interviewee that they are a strong contender and he has to just finish up a few more interviews out of courtesy and he’ll be in touch. It’s everything for me not to follow the poor souls out of the store and say, “Go put on a fedora hat and a new shirt and come back and listen to the next few interviews. You may not want to work for this schmuck”.

    1. I have seen all of the types of people you mentioned…except for that weird photographer dude. I try to fly under the radar and keep my visit somewhat short. If it is crowded, I bolt so I don’t take up precious space. It comes down to respect.

  2. I do most of my custom house design work in a charrette format with the client heavily involved, “nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball”. While I like to do those at my office (other resources there like books, past projects, photographs, drawings, etc.), in one recent one we went by the property first which was miles from my place and then decided to go to a local coffee shop for the charrette. Worked well. Six hours later we had the house conceptualized. But we had plenty of coffee, water, lunch and cookies.

    It does bother me a little bit when it’s crowded to see one person camped out in a six seat booth nursing a coffee, especially when using what one person would normally use of the table top.


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