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BLOG: Forget the froth

Hans Leijten | May 3, 2013
New research spills the beans on the drawbacks of coffee shops as work locations

Local university students have been courting controversy recently by using coffee shops as places to work. Other coffee shop-goers claim this inconveniences them, provoking considerable debate on social media platforms and causing commentators to ask: are coffee shops really the ideal working location?

The answer, according to new Regus research, is no. Hong Kong respondents cite a lack of privacy, security of belongings, and a lack of access to office equipment as the top three drawbacks of working from coffee shops.  The research, in which 26,000 businesspeople from 90 countries took part, is in line with previous Regus research that revealed that 64 percent of business people globally would turn to a professional business centre for a professional, productive environment outside their usual office.

The idea of working from a coffee shop sounds appealing: free wi-fi, a 'buzzing' environment, and permanent access to a delicious cappuccino. But the reality is not all it's cracked up to be. While people recognise that it's great to be able to drop in to a coffee shop when they are out and about and get some work done, send a few emails, or have a quick catch up with a colleague, respondents in this survey made it clear that coffee shops cannot be the norm, as they are not seen as sufficiently productive, secure or professional.

Other common drawbacks were loud fellow-customers and slow or unstable Internet connections. Globally, baby boomers are far more likely to avoid meeting clients in coffee shops (60 percent) than the more casual members of gen-Y (48 percent). They also find it harder to concentrate in this type of environment than younger workers. Nosy eavesdroppers were an issue across all age groups.

Key findings

  • For Hong Kong workers the three biggest coffee shop drawbacks are:
    • Privacy of documents and conversations (78 percent)
    • Having to look after belongings at all times (74 percent)
    • Difficulty of accessing office equipment (65 percent)
  • 62 percent say that background chatter disturbs their telephone calls and 62 percent think a slow or unreliable Internet connection is a disadvantage
  • 58 percent struggle with the lack of access to company documents

Trendy business pundits have long claimed that working from coffee shops is becoming increasingly popular, and it's certainly true that the occasional cappuccino with a side-serving of wi-fi can come in very handy. However, our latest research shows that, while coffee shops might be OK for short spells, working for any length of time from a coffee shop can seriously affect productivity. Plenty of Regus customers have come to us after giving up on the trendy alternative of the coffee shop, and these research findings support our anecdotal experience.

 Hans Leijten is vice-president, East Asia, Regus.


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