In Ottawa, the neighbourhood café has seen a steady increase in the number of people purchasing a latté, finding a free outlet, connecting to WiFi, and settling in for hours of work. For some proprietors, this has become something of a problem.
The rise of ‘gig economy’ freelancers and self-employed consultants has created an unprecedented demand for spaces to work. I know what it’s like: four years ago, I was desperately trying to escape the isolation of working from the home office while trying to find a space where I could still be productive.
But, while the coffee shop vibe provides the right amount of energy, there are some downsides:
Despite having the most friendly barista in the city whom you know by name, you are always conscious that they need to turn the tables that you have your work laid out on. Mixed in with the people working, you will find students chatting about their social life, parents with their baby and stroller, and retirees catching up with old friends.
The fact is, coffee shops are communal spaces meant to accommodate a variety of different clients, and few of them are harmonious with you trying to get work done. No one cares whether you need that one table close to the outlet – other people have as much a right to sit at that table as you do.
The “West Coast-Style” North American coffee shop, popularized by Starbucks and its ilk, was never designed with anything more than cursory thought given to the needs of freelancers and entrepreneurs (I mean, you have free WiFi, right?). Most cafés’ design choices do not consider tables big enough to fit your laptop and papers on, seating that doesn’t leave your bum sore after sitting for four hours, or WiFi that runs consistently when there’s 20 people on it.
Having a space with the right mix of comfort, energy, and sound is key to having a productive day of work. As freelancers and self-employed workers, we should not have to sacrifice our productivity and professionalism to meet our need for community and social interaction (and coffee).
The good news is, there are solutions to meet our needs, one of which is co-working. There are many different flavours of co-working space. In Ottawa alone, there are several, each with a distinct feel and work culture. There're spaces designed for Not-For-Profits, others for tech companies. There're spaces for Makers and trades work, and those for entrepreneurs and startup companies. Co-working spaces are great, you just need to find the right one that fits your needs and style.
Founder & Start-Up Coach
I live to be creative and find inventive ways that we can change our world.