In my several years of ‘officing’ in Starbucks or Costa, I saw so many annoyed-by-the-background-noise and I-wish-I-were-home-right-now faces scattered around tables in coffee shops that made me wonder what made all these hipsters and millennials to do their uni, startup or freelance work in a venue environment and not in a professional or academic one. Why ditch the uni hub or their cubicles for a clearly uncomfortable chair and a way too small table in Nero?
I Was Set To Find An Explanation
Letting aside for a moment the progressist and new-age perspective that uses numbers and theories as a basis for explaining the utter need for changing the 9-to-5 office environment, I was set to find a more spontaneous explanation in the words of our subjects: freelancers and digital nomads.
As an initial note, I was surprised to find out that the Starbucks ‘officers’ were extremely aware of the disadvantages that working in a crowded high-street coffee shop has, but were dauntlessly choosing it over other classic alternatives. Of course, a sizeable segment of millennials still carry out their work home, at the office or in the university buildings, but they are not relevant for the purpose of this article.
I started walking around Central London around lunchtime. I thought I’d enter two or three venues until 1-2PM, have something for lunch and then visit a few more in the evening, just before 5PM. The coffee shops were more crowded with Macs before and around lunchtime.
I grabbed a large Caramel Macchiato with lots and lots of sprinkles because it was really warm outside and I was afraid my sugar levels would go down fast. Hehe… I felt quite uncomfortable visiting a Costa and a Nero with a Starbucks cup in my hand, but the anxiety just went away when I realised that no barista in London cares about branding as much as I thought they would.
Why Don’t You Work From Home?
I first managed to engage in discussions with a few freelancers that were typing on their laptops isolated behind their headphones. The first question (after a few others that were meant to ease my subjects with my random and relatively intrusive presence) that I asked each of them was “Why don’t you work from home?”. I thought: cheaper coffee, comfy clothes, your own bathroom and WiFi… It just did not make any sense. Here are some of the replies I got:
“Would you be productive when you know you have your Netflix account a click away and all the snacks that you desire three feet away?”
My obvious reaction was: “Hell no!”
“I just start doing random things around the house and man, I can lie down and take a break from life at any moment. I can’t put my feet up on a Starbucks table, you know? This keeps me a little more disciplined and focused.”
“The social pressure does not let me waste time. I have convinced myself that the strangers around me are here to evaluate my progress. Odd, I know, but it’s all about productivity with me.”
Besides freelancers, I also met two startup colleagues that were working together on a sofa in Cafe Nero. I first had to check if they had an office space (because if they didn’t, then it would make more sense for them to meet on neutral ground). And they did! My little research was hitting the jackpot!
Why Would They Still Meet In Town If They Are Paying For An Office Space?
“We do this once in a while because we’ve seen that this area is frequently used by freelancers and startups. We like to engage with them, because you can never know where the opportunity arises from. Some like their privacy, but others are quite receptive to meeting new people.”
They actually managed to hire a web designer that was working on some academic project in that coffee shop.
What about the price for the office space? Do they afford it?
“We are actually looking for some cheaper alternatives. Co-working spaces sound like a possible solution, but the office environment is quite boring so we’re actually looking past the classic office itself.”
Why Would They Ditch the Office? More Discoveries…
During the evening I met less millennials around London’s coffee venues, but all the young professionals seemed to be somehow bored and… yes, disgusted when asked why they would ditch the office.
For startups and small companies, the office rental fees are too high for their financial possibilities. Many of them admitted they had other pressing areas that needed investment and that they could not afford to occupy an office in the long term.
So there’s money, productivity and opportunities. Three notions that influence young professionals’ judgement towards the classic 9-to-5 office schedule. Co-working spaces have took off into the business sector; some companies are actually entirely focused in offering hot-desk opportunities to organizations and freelancers. But these hot-desks are designed and organized very similar to a corporation’s office space.
So How Should A Person That Is Dreading The Dull Atmosphere From An Office Be Satisfied?
Large corporations have started re-thinking their offices and have redesigned them in order to evolve from the initial ‘bunch of cubicles’ state. Adding sizeable cafeterias, lounge areas, and entertainment zones, corporations such as Facebook or Google have built entire business parks that contain very diversely purposed buildings. Golf courses, scooters, slides, caravans that serve as meeting rooms, bowling alleys and even beach volley courts.
On the other hand, several startups in the UK have thought of combining the rather relaxed coffee shop or restaurant environment with the productivity and people that are hosted in a corporate office. A hot-desking concept that assures the workers can easily communicate with each other, work efficiently (interiors adjusted to office needs), and entertain a more laid-back state of mind that dissipates boredom or stress.
Lounge turns high-end venues into funky working spaces. Get the desk, the network, coffee and breakfast for only £99/mo.
Are you trying to ditch the office?
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