With Wi-Fi available just about everywhere these days and 3G to fill in any gaps, there seems to be no limit to where one can go and still connect to work.

Recognizing the power of remote access, many companies are saving substantial amounts of money by allowing employees to work from home or at a location of their choice and virtual workplaces are becoming more standard.

In parallel with this, many Americans have started their own businesses during the economic downturn, which has added to the number of people working out of a non-traditional office. Taken together, these two factors have given rise to an entire subculture of coffee shop workers, a subculture I’m now a part of.

Until just a few years ago I never even drank coffee. But all that changed when I left IBM (IBM) to pursue my doctorate and then go it my own. After graduate school I found myself working from home all the time--but it was torture for a social guy like me. Knowing I really wasn’t in the position to lease an office, I figured I’d start spending a few hours a day at my local Starbucks (SBUX). This is when I realized there was an entire subculture of people who work from coffee shops.   

The key for me was having a destination. As great as it sounds, working from home isn’t for everyone. For many, working from home can blur the boundary between work life and personal life to the point that it can become unhealthy. Your local coffee shop offers an inexpensive alternative that allows you to create some separation without having a physical office. 

Coffee Shop Colleagues

When you no longer have employees to interact with, there is a loss of camaraderie. As one of my coffee shop colleagues put it, “working at Starbucks makes me feel less lonely, it’s like being in an office.” Even the most introverted among us do have some need to socialize. Office environments have a certain energy and there is also that comfort of seeing familiar faces every day. Working remotely from a local coffee shop can give you back some of that feeling of belonging.

I’ve made numerous friends working at my local Starbucks; I’ve met freelancers, start-up entrepreneurs, consultants, programmers, writers and magazine editors. From time-to-time I’ll even bounce ideas off of my coffee shop colleagues.   

 Working on your own can present some challenges, so here are a couple things to keep in mind:

*Self-discipline: You have to set rules for yourself. Whether at home or at a cafe, working remotely means you no longer have the structure and rules of an office. Be sure to make rules for yourself and structure your work in a way that will allow you to keep track of progress and maintain balance with your personal life. 

*Face Time: Be weary of the out-of-sight out-of-mind effect. For those who work for companies with offices, working remotely means you are in fact at a remote location. It can be easy to lose touch with your office dwelling colleagues, so be sure to drop in every so often for a little face time.    

Mobile computing and virtual technology has truly redefined the modern workplace. Whether you are a hard charging corporate commando or a one-man show, you have likely spent some time working remotely from a local coffee shop. If you are unfamiliar with the coffee shop office subculture, be sure to look around the next time you drop by a Starbucks.        

PS: Yes, I did in fact write this entire article while sipping a tall Americano at the Starbucks in Mary Brickell Village, Miami. 

 

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook 

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.