September 2008


The birthplace of the Coffee Shop Office Project

The birthplace of the Coffee Shop Office Project

Written by Lori Thiessen

Welcome!! The launch of the survey and the blog for Coffee Shop Office is underway. We have balloons, posters, people, and of course, coffee. A special thank you to Ana and Susan for their support of our project. You gals totally rock! We had twice as many people turn up at the launch so it is very gratifying.

I’d like to thank nancy (aka moneycoach), raincoaster, and Daniel for sharing their coffee shop office stories. Check ‘em out under the “Share Your Story” link on this page! And maybe you can add your own.

Esquires has been THE place where Gregg and I have been working on developing this project and the staff here have been equally as gracious about supporting our launch.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Gregg and Lori at the launch!

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Written by Lori Thiessen

Apparently, good ol’ Angus Reid polled people between the ages of 18-34 to see if, given the choice, they would give up their early morning cup of java or their cell phone. Guess which lost? Coffee. Yup, coffee. “The fuel of the 24/7 worklife,” as Gregg Taylor, co-partner of this project, dubbed coffee.

Now it would be interesting to poll those folks over the age of 35 and see what kind of an answer Angus Reid would get. Personally, I know a few people who aren’t even approachable until they’ve had a little cuppa.

A writer for 24hrs magazine, Dharm Makwana who reported the results of the poll in the September 23rd edition of the mag, took it to the streets. People were shocked by the results, as I was. In a Vancouver café, several people said they would gladly give up their cell phones in exchange for coffee or for more accessible phones, perhaps it was a little nostalgia for the phone booths on every corner. Ah Superman, where are you now in this cell phone age?

But one person who was asked for an opinion said that considering the business or industry people are in, cell phones may be critical to success or heck, just staying afloat.

In the face of the result of this poll, I’d like to ask you, my fellow café commuters, would you give up your cell phone or morning cup of coffee?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

One of the things that’s important to me when I choose a coffee shop office is free wifi. Starbucks, as far as I know, still charges quite a bit for wifi which sucks because the coffees are so expensive. Coffee and wifi can run you over $10 and that’s just for the hour. Do the math and you’re looking at $1280/month based on an 8 hr day. There are tons of things I can think of to spend that kind of money on and it ain’t wifi and coffee.

A lot of coffee shops offer free wifi as a way to attract customers and it’s a smart move. Free, ample parking and free wifi makes my café commuter mouth water. And now I’m happy to pay the $5 for a coffee, possibly even several cups of $5 coffee depending how long I’m camped out for.

There are a couple of websites that list places where the wifi is free.

Vancouver Wifi Mug – Caffeinated and Unstrung (http://vancouver.wifimug.org)

This website has a pretty comprehensive listing of every café and restaurant that offers free wifi in the Metro-Vancouver (Lower Mainland area). The downside is that there doesn’t seem to be an email or other way to contact the folks looking after this community-based, free listing. You can add or edit an entry pretty easily.

There are also other cities that have a similar directory:

Seattle (http://seattle.wifimug.org)

Portland, (http://portland.wifimug.org)

Boston (http://boston.wifimug.org)

Chicago (http://chicago.wifimug.org)

For the café commuter who travels far afield this is a handy thing to know.

There is another website with a listing of free wifi spots called Wifi Spot Directory (http://www.wififreespot.com).

This resource isn’t nearly as comprehensive as Wifi Mug but it does cover most provinces, and it also lists other places other than cafes and restaurants that offer free wifi. Plus this is a for-profit site by the looks of things, if that is an issue for you.

Happy Free Wifi Hunting!

Q: How do you find out about free wifi spots in your city?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

In hopes of inspiring you to share your café commuter story with Gregg Taylor and me, I thought that I would share a typical day with you.

Generally, I arrive at the coffee shop about 10-10:30 am. My trusty laptop by my side, I set up camp for the day near the electrical outlet. Outcomes my cell phone, organizer (I still haven’t made the leap to PDA’s), and pen. I order a coffee and breakfast bagel, then sit down to work.

Gregg and I meet for regular weekly meetings at one particular coffee shop. So there we are, dueling laptops, peering at each other over the edge of the screens. Some days are paper days when we talk, write down our great ideas (or at least we hope they will be great!) and plan how we will carry them out!

Other days, we don’t actually talk much to each other but just work on the different bits of the project. It seemed kind of silly to us at first that we would just sit across from each other and type, but we realized that it was a good strategic move. We end up getting a lot of actual work done on days like these.

We tend to work until one of us has an appointment to go to or another commitment or our asses become too sore and our minds are mush.

If I’m working on my own, I’ve usually got a list of tasks to complete and I just work through it. When I was working on the website and going completely stir crazy with trying to learn DreamWeaver, I would persevere until I had one hair left on my head. Then it was time to go. Or at least work on something else. Blog writing and website editing are ALWAYS on my list.

At some points during the day, it’s difficult to concentrate because of the noise factor. Today, for instance, there was a private ESL session happening on my left and on my right, an image consultant was meeting with a new client. Because I’m a curious person, I found it almost impossible to concentrate. Eavesdropping is an occupational hazard for the curious café commuter. But it’s fantastic to witness all the different activities going on in the coffee shop. I sit back, observe and sip. Hey, it’s research!

After a few hours, I get up, buy a cuppa and muffin, stretch, maybe pass a remark or two with the counterfolk or fellow café commuters, then I head back to the screen.

My day usually ends around 5:30 or 6:00 pm and I strike camp, wind up my cords, settle the laptop into its case and trundle out the door to my car.

Q: What is your typical café commuting day like?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Besides having control over your schedule, ditching your business wardrobe is the other much-touted benefit of being a café commuter. Fling that business suit aside, kick off those uncomfortable shoes, and embrace the raggedy housecoat.

No.

That’s right, I said no. While the theory of endless pajama days may seem appealing, I would suggest that not dressing properly for the day can have a very negative effect on a person’s psyche and productivity. I’m not opposed to the odd pajama day so long as it is a duvet day as well. Appropriate dressing for all situations is critical in my view.

You may be tempted, as I have been, to drag on a pair of worn-out jogging pants in disgraceful condition and top it with an ancient t-shirt replete with stains of now unknown origins to run a quick errand at a local shop. I’m only going to be out for a moment, I argued with myself. I won’t meet anybody I know. And that’s exactly the time when I do meet someone I know, looking like something the cat dragged in.

I think if you are going to a café to work, you may want to consider dressing yourself as if you were going to a regular office. Remember you’ve chosen to work out of a café instead of at home. Working at a café or coffee shop means that there is always the chance to meet with a potential client or be referred by a fellow café commuter to someone they know. The opportunity to make friends and influence people decreases dramatically if you look like (and possibly smell like) something that’s been left out over night.

Some of you may be scoffing at this suggestion but the urge to dress down, way down, is almost irresistible when you are a café commuter. Don’t give into it! Every day you choose to work, dress the part. I’m not saying get out the blue business suit but business casual never fails.

I’ve taken this advice to heart myself and I make sure that I’m properly dressed, ready to face the world and its many challenges every day I do work. I find I’m more productive on those days and I feel much more positive about myself.

So go ahead, dress to impress even if the only person you want to impress is yourself.

Q: What do you consider to be business casual dressing for the café commuter?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Last week, I attended a lecture on new diagnostic procedures and treatment of depression sponsored by the Mood Disorders Association. Dr. Ron Remick who is a consulting psychiatrist at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver introduced the concept of presenteeism to the assembled company.

Presenteeism is the state when you are physically at work but not mentally. Dr. Remick quoted statistics that put productivity lost to presenteeism at about 4 hours per week whereas absenteeism caused about only 1 hr of lost productivity per week. Ergo, you are more productive by taking the day off and resting than coming into to the office and being simply decorative.

As an independent café commuter (e.g. a freelance consultant), you are often at the mercy of the client’s deadline. If you have a reasonable client, you may be able to wangle an extension on the deadline. If not, well, you’re sunk. Absenteeism or presenteeism isn’t an option unless you are working with a partner or have an agreement with another consultant to sub for each other during illness or heavy workload periods.

Since freelance consulting often means inconsistent workloads (read: feast or famine times), you are either working flat out on a deadline or you are trying to drum up more business. Most of the time, you are doing both. So burn-out becomes an issue for the self-employed café commuter. You can be absent from work or suffering from presenteeism like anybody else, however the only one who knows on a daily/hourly basis is your jerk of a boss, which since you are self-employed is you.

Sometimes, the best thing to do might be to sit back and savour the cup of coffee you are holding in your hand.

Q: How do you deal with your own bouts of absenteeism or presenteeism?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

Gregg Taylor and I decided at the beginning of this project that we wanted to gather some hard data about café commuters. So we thought a survey might fit the bill. We enlisted the help of Aaron Cruikshank, a local survey guru, to give us hand with how the survey should look, what questions we should ask and how to ask those questions.

So now we have a survey ready to go and great prizes to entice you into taking it! Now, it is a rather long survey because Gregg and I had so many things we wanted to find out. We would really appreciate it if you could take the time to fill it out.

You can elect to be entered into the draw for the fabulous prizes. There will be a monthly draw of $25 to your favourite café and then there will be a grand prize draw at the end which will be a $150 basket of goodies fit for café commuters.

So go ahead and tell us what you think about the café commuter workstyle! Click here to begin. Don’t be shy about telling your friends about this survey and draw either.

Gregg and I thank you in advance for taking the time to take our survey.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

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