Mar 15 2012

How Much Work is Actually Getting Done in Coffee Shops? Venti, Grande or Tall?

Popping into a Wi-Fi–equipped coffee shop or restaurant for work is a growing trend, but one analyst questions if it’s productive.

The portability of notebooks and tablets has more workers reaching for the flexibility of work outside the office. Nowhere is this more embodied than in the coffee shop, which has turned into an office away from the office for many.

People might pop in for a few minutes to check e-mail, or spend hours pulling together a presentation with the help of several cups of caffeinated inspiration.

While some can handle working amid all the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop, Craig Roth, a Gartner analyst, wonders if it is really an appropriate place to get work done.

He illustrates his point in his post on the Gartner blog by interrupting his thoughts with quotes he overheard while sitting in a coffee shop — trying to write said post.

One enabler of mobile work is the “consumption assumption” that says mobile workers will spend much more time consuming information than …

“… venti dark triple splenda …”

so more time consuming information than creating it. That is probably true today, but I’m not sure about future needs. I’m typing this blog entry …

“Just so you know, the line goes around this way …”

on a laptop, but …

“Miss … the line is here …”

but mobile usage, uh, most mobile usage is expected to be on devices a little more sleek than a big boxy laptop. Accordingly, the …

“not French fries, French PRESS”

so the … what was I going to say?

Admittedly, that’s why many who opt to work in coffee shops come armed with headphones to drown out the background noise. But Roth remains quite committed to the idea of a quiet, private space for the kind of work that most informational workers need to do.

You know, I hear a lot more about what people can do on their mobile devices and how the device management will function than where people are expected to do all this work. I would have been just as distracted at an airport, hotel lobby, dentist’s waiting room, or taxi.

I can understand the productivity boost for mobile transactional workers (like delivery people or nurses) and hoteling offices (or working from hotel rooms for that matter). But I think that the excitement consumers have for being able to do a quick email check or game while in line doesn’t fully transfer to much of what information workers need to do.

But Roth is missing out on something that Steve King of Small Business Labs has been reporting on for a while now: The rise of coworking spaces.

So while the coffee shop might be a distracting and noisy place for some, it certainly won’t be the only option for the estimated 1.3 billion mobile workers IDC forecasts will be working outside the office by 2015.

What do you think? Can you work in a coffee shop, or do you find it too distracting to get anything done?

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevharb/5466679418/sizes/l/in/photostream/" target="_blank">Flickr/Kevin H.</a>

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