This morning as I sat in my local Starbucks, brainstorming ideas for upcoming blog posts; I did a bit of people watching as well. Normally, I would be sitting in rush hour traffic on my way to a customer’s site in Downtown Toronto. Today, I had the pleasure of having a day off from work and being able to observe everyone else at work. There were many people that came and went as normal, and several people with their laptops out working. What interested me the most was a group of 6 men (suits – as I like to call them) gathered around several small tables, taking up almost all the chairs, participating in a meeting. As I sat observing and half listening to them, I realized that they were having a client meeting right in Starbucks! I overheard them giving their sales pitch to their customer at the table. Is Starbucks the new virtual office? Why Starbucks for that matter?
Starbucks has it all. They were first with WIFI access (introduced 2001/free service as of July 1st 2010); the atmosphere is different to other coffee shops/WIFI hotspots, and the brand marketing! In my opinion, they were smart and set themselves up as the go to place for the virtual office. In reality, it’s not all that new. I myself have been using Starbucks across the GTA to work from for the past two years, just not usually to do a sales pitch or client meeting! I believe that client meetings and calls should be done elsewhere – I’ve learned from experience that it’s not the best place to make or take calls.
As we’ve evolved and changed the way we work, it also impacts our work/life balance. How does the virtual office affect that balance?
A study done in 2001 of over 5500 IBM employees (IBM Global Work and Life Issues Survey) compared three different work venues (traditional, virtual, or home office) in relation to work/life balance. Job performance, motivation retention, workload success, and career opportunity were all taken into consideration. They found that of the three work venues telework (home office) was the best for work life balance and the virtual office was the least acceptable with the most negative impact on work life balance. They believed that individuals wanting to work successfully from the virtual office would have to find better ways to establish boundaries between work life and personal/family life.
** This study was based on a traditional virtual office where a company leases a smaller space for workers. (More info here)
Surprisingly in my research, scouring the internet, I could not find any new studies on how the virtual office affects work/life balance – only the one done in 2001. Are we so accustomed to working anywhere and everywhere now that no one feels it has an impact on our work and personal lives anymore? I find that hard to believe!
The Starbucks virtual office – ways to keep the lines from blurring between work and personal life:
- Choose a location that you wouldn’t normally go to for personal/family functions. This will help you to not associate your family time with work time.
- Pick a time of day that works best for you to use your virtual office. I’ve seen people sit in Starbucks for the morning to avoid the traffic, then head out to account calls, meetings, etc.
- Keep certain “business essentials” either in your car or in your laptop bag. (i.e. Product literature, extra pens, batteries, smartphone charger, power bar) That way, you’re not tempted to drive home to get that missing item.
- Have the right mindset. It will take some getting used to, but you’ll have to remind yourself that this is your work time, not personal time even though you may be sitting in a coffee shop.
- Try not to stay too long! Remember office etiquette, well, there is Starbucks office etiquette as well. Allow others to use the space; it will help you avoid staying past your work hours and into family time!