In Defense of the Coworking Space

Why coffee shop hopping often leads to disappointment

If anyone has the formula for successful coffee shop work hopping, please let me into your secret. I’ve had days where I run from coffee shop to coffee shop in search of a strong wifi connection and another hit of that sweet sweet caffeine. I wake up that day with the promise of a fulfilling day where I’ll be incredibly productive while sitting firmly in a place that’s not designed for productivity. I fantasize of those coffee shop dwellers who sit there with their headphones on and jam away at their life’s project, or so it seems. The sad reality of coffee shop working is far from the idyllic state shown by the digitally nomadic instagram adds. The coffee shop work experience is objectively disparaging. The noises are unpredictable, the incoming calls are taboo, the smells are overpowering, the wifi connections are unpredictable and your unequivocally drinking more coffee than one human should intake. Did I mention the seating is often inadequate for a hard and long days work? So why do I still look to coffee shops to solve my office space problem?

Why are we drawn to work at a coffee shop at all? I for one, associate a coffee shop with serendipitous interactions and bubble bursting discoveries. I view coffee shops as the genesis of the brainstorming moment, the creative juicery and the ultimate spot to let down your guard and nuzzle into a groove. I hold it with the same level of respect as the Englishman does of his pub. The coffee shop is where I choose to meet someone who I find interesting. The coffee shop is the place where I escape for some morning reading and the place where you meet your cofounder. The coffee shop is special not because of what it represents but because of its attributes and its possibilities. The coffee shops I seek out have a walk-in type relationship and accessible from the street, some outdoor offering, something visually stimulating whether it be art, memorabilia, books or just structural adornments and most notably - exceptional coffee. These are the spaces that draw you in and invite you to plug in your computer but the dreams that draw you in are often far from the realities that push you out.

There’s a reason why coworking became a thing. We could discuss enterprise agreements and the notion of flex office offerings but I’m focused purely on the worker who wants to get out of their house, find an inspiring place to work and otherwise would be working at Starbucks. The key word for me here is “inspiring.” It’s what WeWork got REALLY RIGHT. Especially in the early days, the idea that you could draw creators to one place where collaboration and community was fostered was a beautiful thing. Overtime, it morphed into something entirely different, a space that became as convenient to access and ubiquitous as 7 Eleven. The cycle of life continues though and newer, niche, highly curated offerings pop up (like Vuka in Austin) that restart the process all over again. They bring in the inspired young ex-coffee shop worker and then over time they realize they need to scale to bigger commitments. The beginning state though always has the mission in mind - create the space that takes all the best things from the coffee shop work environment and layer on the benefits of an office provider.

So here’s my endorsement of the co-working space but I’m sure you’ll still find me at a coffee shop yet again - a bit insane - doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different outcome.