What if your job wasn’t tethered to a desk or a time clock? For an increasing number of workers, the rise of telecommuting — working for an employer, but typically working offsite instead of at a desk or cubicle in an office — presents an attractive option. It’s not just for freelancers any more. Increasingly, businesses are offering either partial or full-time telecommuting to their employees, whether they’re writers, designers, accountants, or salespeople. As Forbes bluntly stated it, Telecommuting Is the Future of Work.
At a glance, telecommuting offers plenty of positives. There’s a degree of flexibility that makes telecommuting attractive to employers (it’s cost effective, and leads to less hours lost to things like illness and bad weather). Workers also see potential, especially if they’re parents with young children, people with long commutes, the easily-distracted, and those of us who don’t keep conventional hours. But one interesting finding from a 2012 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (The Hard Truth about Telecommuting) was that telecommuting, despite its hype, hasn’t delivered on the promise of better work-life balance. Indeed, demands on workers typically increase, with some employers expecting — or even demanding — ’round the clock availability.
Against that backdrop, how can a telecommuter carve out a sense of balance and sanity? One answer could be as close as the nearest coffee shop. Benefits include:
Fewer Distractions: At first, this would seem to make no sense at all. Coffee shops are often bustling and noisy. Believe it or not, all that activity helps rather than hinders. The low-level hum of all that chatter helps to shut out other background noise, and unlike a radio, television, or your MP3 player, there’s not as much temptation to drop what you’re doing to pay attention to something else, whether it’s a news report, a plot twist, or a song you haven’t heard in ages.
A Change in Scenery: Let’s face it, the walls of your home office (or living room, breakfast nook, or wherever else you typically set up at home) get a bit dull after a while. Getting out of your usual space — and the usual routine that goes with it — keeps you energized, and can be a big help in getting those creative juices flowing.
Socialization: There’s often no way around the fact that working at home can sometimes be a bit like solitary confinement. There’s no chat around the water cooler or over lunch (we doubt if your cat’s going to have much to say about the latest plot twist on Game of Thrones), and no winding down at happy hour after work (dogs and martinis don’t mix). A bit of idle chatter with strangers, or the other regulars, goes a long way toward staving off isolation.
Collaboration: Those chance meetings have another benefit. After all, you’re often meeting people in the same circumstances as you, so it’s an ideal environment for swapping leads, advice, and strategies. And if you’re stuck on an especially challenging work issue, it never hurts to get a second opinion or another set of eyeballs on it. That’s much harder to do when you’re working from home.
Caffeine: The free flow of coffee can help to keep you alert and keep your energy levels up, which can be especially helpful when you’re coming down the home stretch of a long or difficult project.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a bit of etiquette. For one thing, be sure to order regularly (at least once an hour). That might seem expensive, but you’re in someone’s place of business. And that cost is much lower than the cost of renting office space. For another, pay attention to the footprint of your workspace. How much space are you, your laptop, your notes, your phone, briefcase, charger, and other odds and ends taking up? Also be aware of the time; working during a cafe’s busiest times can be an annoyance for everyone involved, and working during off-peak hours can help keep you from wearing out your welcome. Above all, be mindful and respectful.
See More: CCTV on the present and future of telecommuting:
Telecommuting is currently in a phase of slow but steady growth. Its increasing popularity is reflected not only in the growing number of telecommuting jobs available on sites like Indeed and Monster, but also on sites where telecommuting jobs make up a significant portion of the job listings (Flexjobs) or their entirety (We Work Remotely, a spinoff of the original 37 Signals job board). As the opportunities expand, employers and job seekers alike are left to navigate a maze of challenges. For the latter, at least, the local coffee shop is a good place to address the promise, and the challenges, head on.
For those days when you’d rather work from your couch in your pajamas, try our selection of fresh-roasted K-Cups for your Keurig.
New York Times: How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity
Coffitivity (mentioned in the Times article above) is an app for iPhone and Android that simulates the background hum of a coffee shop. You can visit them at coffitivity.com.