The coffice is the name given to the local cafe when freelancers arrive with their laptops, ask for a long black and a jug of tap water, then stay until closing time. For those who can’t come to the office, or simply don’t have the option, it makes sense; the coffice gives you a caffeine fix, and an excuse to leave the house.
However, these benefits may be inadequate when balanced against the cons of conducting formal work from a glorified snack bar. Such opinions aren’t just held by those who resent having to buy a flat white every other hour to keep their seat either.
So what’s the big deal about an actual office, and should all freelancers leave their coffices behind?
Can the average freelancer afford an office?
Office real estate big dogs Easy Offices state that the sheer demand for office space in London has driven prices for commercial property higher than ever. Last year an office in the King’s Cross area cost £93 per square foot per month to rent. That’s about £20 a day.
Conversely, turning your local Nero or Starbucks into a coffice costs roughly £2.45 for a medium cappuccino and unlimited wifi. At this point, the coffice is looking a little more attractive.
Of course, a freelancer who prefers a shiny desk to a coffee-stained table doesn’t have to rent a whole office for themselves. Utilising coworking spaces could allow anyone to work in a more office-like environment without paying the hefty London rents. For example, WeWork offer dedicated desks at their Southbank location from £500 a month. That’s around £16 a day.
With such spaces you may also get the added benefit of sharing a professional workspace with like-minded individuals, thus yielding valuable networking opportunities.
Filtering out distractions
There’s a strange romanticism to the coffice: the minute long love affairs, the world-weary raconteurs and the free-milk freeloaders. You’re working hard, wired on caffeine, too skint for a proper office, and the barista wants to know if you’re after a refill. But unless you’re a high street cafe reviewer, this romanticism may not help you get ahead with your work.
On top of the romanticism, there’s the issue of interruptions. One ‘soonologist’ in 2014 predicted that we’d all be taking advantage of the coffice round about now. But they clearly didn’t consider the blight of productivity-draining intrusions. Among the worst offenders are the coffice’s orchestra of unacceptable noises (and that’s excluding lounge music on the stereo). You may also find yourself earwigging on other people’s conversations instead of concentrating on the task at hand.
The professional meeting space dilemma
A benefit to working in a professional environment is that if you meet with clients or potential collaborators they will know what sort of workspace to expect. After all, when talking facts and figures with a possible customer, it usually pays to look legitimate and professional. So holding a meeting in a Starbucks, next to a mother with a crying baby and a group of skiving school kids may not be your client’s cup of overpriced organic green tea.
Then again, if you’re a trendy startup, making your base an interchangeable Regus office may not be the kind of look you’re going for, nor the look your customers expect. In fact, your business could be improved by running it from an equally trendy independent coffee shop; that way, you’re giving the cafe an economic shot in the arm, and they’re giving you a constant stream of delicious espresso shots.
Your work ethic, your process and your choice
Ultimately, it all comes down to finding out what best suits the way you work. If you’re an easily-distracted dawdler, a shameless networker in charge of a startup that needs a professional face, or an off-duty barista longing to leap over that counter and make your own coffee, a more formal office environment is probably for you.