I read just a little blurb in the paper over the weekend about people working really well in coffee shops, or other public places. It was a little bit to fill in a blank piece of paper of a weekend newspaper, but I found interesting and it got me to reexamin my view of the laptop filled coffee house, along with that I found a better article via The Atlantic.
Personally, I have never been fond of the coffee house with lots of people working. I think it takes away from the air of a coffee house, I guess this is because it has a lot to do with the few that I have been to where the entire shop were people sipping coffee quietly and working on their computers. It made the shop feel more like a library than a place to get coffee with loud espresso machines and grinders being used.
To me the article that I read both of them make it sound like that would be a bad coffee shop for someone trying to get some work done. The article that I read in the paper was a little study where the researchers played white noise in the background, i.e. people talking/espresso machine being use, and found that it allowed people to focus on their work better than left alone in a quiet room. From personal experience I find that this can be true since i like to work with music on or something going on in the background, it just keeps my mind from wandering to other subjects besides the task at hand. Not sure why this seems to be the case, but it works try it out.
So I need to clarify my view on coffee house work. I would not want to be in a shop that is filled with computer screen lit faces making no sounds what so ever besides the typing of their key board. If people are going to work from the shop I would like to see conversations happening, maybe even small meetings of other people that are trying to accomplish something. (As an aside Ritual Coffee Roasters location is SF is known to be a hub of start-ups working out of their shop). I really enjoy the amience of a lively shop.
The Atlantic article that I linked above provides a few more motivators that might make the coffee house more productive as well, the weight of hours lifted, working outside the office seems like less work and the other is people fear having no purpose outside of the office.
By the weight of hours lifted, the writer is talking about how you are given a set amount of time in the shop, till closing or your battery runs out. In the office you can stay there for pretty much all night, the hours of work is on top of you so it allows your mind to wander.
I believe the above goes hand and hand with working outside of the office seems like less work. I think this one is self evident and I refuse to go more into it.
He does also note the noise, but that has been stated, which leads us to the fear. And here is the quote he took from the paper he found on the subject;
"when we are alone in a public place, we have a fear of "having no purpose". If we are in a public place and it looks like that we have no business there, it may not seem socially appropriate. In coffee-shops it is okay to be there to drink coffee but loitering is definitely not allowed by coffee-shop owners, so coffee-shops patrons deploy different methods to look "busy". Being disengaged is our big social fear, especially in public spaces, and people try to cover their "being there" with an acceptable visible activity. "
I gotta say all of those are pretty legitimate and have me looking a little more favorable of the people I see typing away at the shops I vist.