With trends towards home-working and flexible shifts, cafés have steadily taken on a new role as a proxy office. Although some owners had fears of customers lingering for a day over an espresso, many others have embraced the solitary workers and have found their space busier than ever, and also more profitable. Creating the balance between work space and social space isn’t always easy and it’s up to individual businesses to manage customer behaviour. You may introduce cut off points where people are asked to put away their laptops after five o’clock or signpost ‘working zones’. These are our tips for designing a flexible café interior that works for everyone.
Provide facilities for workers
If you want to encourage people to work from your café you need to give them what they want. Ample plug sockets and top notch wifi are a necessity. USB charging points are also becoming more popular. It’s a good way of subtly divided the social from the workspace too as those with laptops will congregate around the sockets.
You shouldn’t provide office furniture in a café but do consider comfort. Great, ergonomically designed café furniture is out there and it won’t make your cosy café look like a corporate office. Think about table height too. Generally when working from a computer your screen should be near to eye level. It’s not that realistic in a café setting but avoid lower than average tables and think about how the furniture is going to be used by all of your customers to achieve a good compromise.
Encouraging people with expensive equipment into your space comes with a safety warning. Inevitably people will leave their laptops to go to the loo or order a coffee and you can’t be held responsible for thefts of unattended belongings. It is important, however, to do what you can. It’s sensible to have CCTV in your café and if there are reports of opportunist crimes in your area put up a sign announcing you have CCTV as a deterrent. Hooks under tables are good for hiding your handbag from unwanted attention and also consider eye hooks for cable locking laptops. Although it’s tempting to put tables designed for working at the front of your café this isn’t particularly wise if security is an issue. In fact the darker space at the back may be perfect for both putting off thieves and avoiding screen glare.
Decide how to make the space work for everyone
We’ve been on both sides of the café space debate. When you’re taking refuge in order to really concentrate on work in a café, inevitably the loudest, cheeriest group are going to sit right next to you, probably knocking your laptop in the process. Equally it’s horrible to be on the receiving end of peevish stares when you’re catching up with old friends or taking the kids out. Cafés have always been social spaces after all. There are plenty of options to avoid too much conflict. People intending to work alone need only a seat and a desk space. Placing people on a ‘breakfast bar’ along a window or alternatively on a long boardroom-style table with easily reached sockets could be a solution. Two-person tables are suitable for couples and small meetings and more relaxed sofas and booths are ideal for social gatherings. Encouraging ‘family friendly’ spaces away from workspaces is sensible. Think about sound shielding too. A strategically placed padded wall could act as both a visual and audio separation.
Let people know your expectations
If you feel the need to set down rules make sure signage is clear. Conflict is often the result of misunderstanding and it’s good practice to ensure everyone is aware of the rules from the start. A friendly sign to encourage respect for other patrons may be what’s needed. If you’re worried about people having loud phone calls, occupying a large space whilst nursing a cup of tea or overloading your electricity points, a simple list of guidelines makes it much easier to approach anti-social customers. This article might give you some ideas for deciding on your guidelines – Seven Rules for Working From a Coffee Shop – keep it light!
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