Workers have slowly started returning to the office following the covid-19 pandemic. Freelance workers who may have typically worked from home in the past are also starting to venture out, occupying space and time at local coffee shops.
Coffee shops provide a place for independent workers without an office to surround themselves with others, engage in small talk, and enjoy a cup of java or a bite to eat in between working on their tasks for the day.
Adam Steely, owner of illy Caffe in Williamsburg’s Merchant Square, has noticed an uptick in more workers using his business to, well, conduct business.
“We have seen more folks coming out and doing what appears to be office work,” Steely said. “They are on their phones or responding to emails. I think the draw is that people, for the most part, enjoy being around other people. They need a little privacy to do whatever they need, but by hanging out at a cafe, they can meet in person, they can enjoy the slight distraction of people coming and going, they even get to listen to music that they didn’t choose from their streaming service. In a pre-covid world, we all got plenty of that in our offices or workplaces but, these days, it’s hard to feel connected sometimes. Plus, who doesn’t love great coffee?”
Ben Rothwell, owner of The Grounded Coffee on City Center Boulevard in Newport News, has also experienced more patrons coming into his establishment to work.
“We’ve definitely seen more and more people come in to utilize our space for meetings, coaching or business sessions, class projects, or daily tasks,” Rothwell said. “We have several regulars who have, in essence, made different tables in our shop their remote offices.”
So, what is the appeal of a coffee shop for independent workers? For most, it is easy access to stable wifi and coffee. For others, it is a way to simply get out of the house and socialize with others.
“Some people are really eager to be a part of regular interaction,” Rothwell said. “Instead of ‘water cooler conversations’ in a traditional office, more and more people are finding themselves having ‘table side conversations’ throughout the day with fellow regulars, people who enjoy the same drink or food item, or those who they keep seeing but haven’t introduced themselves to yet.”
Those who choose to work in coffeehouses have “similar benefits of personal interaction at a work place, but the added benefit of networking and organic relationships beyond the four walls of their employer,” Rothwell added. “I feel this is one of the many reasons that a coffee shop plays such an integral role in our culture, and all the more after the last year and a half that we’ve been through.”