Words: Allison Foat

The digital renaissance has knocked the bland vibes out of the typical workday and given the traditional workforce a new lease on life. Having uber gadgets and Wi-Fi access means it’s no longer necessary for people to spend hours behind one desk doing whatever it is they do. Unless of course, that’s the intention or necessity. Not for me, not any more – I’ve done the time. After a decade tapping out PR campaigns in my small office and nursing a stiff neck and lower back spasm every other day, I have pirouetted out of my posh orthopaedic swivel chair and gone remote. I’ve been emancipated by the coffice.

The coffice, described by the Urban Dictionary as a coffee shop where “non-coffee shop work” is done – it’s where it’s at these days. Close to 1.3 billion people are now working remotely around the world. Freelancers, entrepreneurs, creatives and consultants have ditched their corporate cubicles, either part or full time, in favour of flicking open their laptops in a space they find to be more productive and inspiring. Says award-winning musical director and composer Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, “For me it’s about connecting with other people. The work I do is pretty lonesome one-on-one interaction with a computer, so the breakaway to a coffee shop gives me a sense of other people also working. WiFi, coffee, ambiance and proximity is important and the Red Sofa in Vredehoek is my coffice choice”.

Shrinking your Workplace

Portable devices have changed the way people work and reduced the need for a formal office. Working off a cell phone, tablet or laptop is a breeze. People, like myself, might still use a desktop and printer occasionally but no longer find it necessary to be confined to one place for long periods of time. Most find they can do almost everything on mobile tech. Even landlines are becoming redundant as more and more clients opt to communicate via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. Free DM’s have replaced overpriced SMS’s.  Folders and files on shelves have been scanned, shredded or deleted, with only the very necessary saved and uploaded to nifty gadgets and stored on a cloud somewhere on the vast interweb. Come to think of it, my workplace has shrunk from 10 square metres to an 11 inch MacBook Air interface and fits snugly into my handbag. Downsizing has never been simpler.

Being part of the coffice tribe means finding the best places from which to work, with excellent Wifi being a key component to coffice satisfaction. Personally, I want to be enjoying connectivity in a stylish environment where great coffee and food is par for the course. High expectations I know, but given the fact that the Mother City has an ever increasing amount of cool spaces, I can’t be blamed for being next-level demanding. New coffee shops are mushrooming all over Cape Town, each one as enticing as the other. Bree Street alone, the most happening strip in the CBD, has a choice of about ten coffee spots, all with excellent coffice profiles.

Cofficing isn’t for everyone. Many prefer, and thrive, in a formal corporate environment, and let’s face it, a structured set up does have its advantages…less disturbance for one thing, and colleague interaction that’s essential in the advertising game, for instance. Still, employees are increasingly logging into work remotely and the culture of BYOD (bring your own device) is growing, which means less time spent under flickering fluorescents, breathing in all that second hand air as the blue and white collar brigade nip away earlier and sip on a flat white as they tap away at their tasks. Getting the job done is all that matters and where that happens is increasingly irrelevant. The digital gypsy life is beckoning and worker bees are making the shift and giving office monotony a slap in the face.

And what of those hardworking men and women who own the lovely spaces that have been embraced by the gadget-toting coffice brigade? Luigi Vigliotti, owner of Shift in Green Point, says, “Wi-Fi as a service is imperative for my business. Yes, at times freeloading is an issue, but luckily for me, that seldom happens. 90% of the time it increases each customer’s overall average spend, attracts walk-in clientele and adds a value added service to the reputation of my business. In the end I believe my business model needs internet, especially as the world becomes more data dependent”. So there you have it, and Vigliotti holds the same opinion as many a coffice owner I interviewed.

Coffice Etiquette

So, when bouncing between coffices all over the ‘hood, do take note that there’s a certain etiquette to observe. Respect your coffice environment and the vibes will forever be in your favour:

* Don’t hog space – be prepared to share a table so don’t go spreading out like you own the place;

* Don’t overstay your welcome. 2-3 hours is a fair amount of time to get your coffitivity on;

* Know when the off peak times are happening at your favourite coffice as that’s when more tables are available and less noise which means increased productivity. Some people can work effectively in the middle of an uprising. Not me.

* Talking of productivity, know what you need to accomplish before you sit yourself down – don’t amble in without a definitive work plan;

* Always have your own Wi-Fi gadget and a spare battery pack at hand, and a power bar so you can share a wall plug with others – people will love you for that thoughtfulness;

* Take calls outside the coffice. It’s good manners. No one wants to hear about what you’ve got going on, even if you’ve just landed the PR gig for Cold Play or a travel feature in Condé Nast Traveller (I live in hope). Take your chit-chat to the sidewalk;

* Don’t do your online banking at the coffice. There are evil people everywhere, looking to hack you just as your salary lands – trust me, it’s happened to someone I know;

* Don’t suck up the Wi-Fi and then not order coffee and something to eat… it’s just plain rude. You don’t want the coffice owner to roll his eyes every time you walk in.

* Don’t be that person that sits outside a coffee shop after hours to use the Wi-Fi. Bad form right there.

* Bring headphones to block out surrounding noise and so you don’t disturb the laptopper next to you when you need to listen to something online. Headphones are also a clear “do not disturb me’”sign.

Having the flexibility to work on the move and enjoy a change of scenery daily is liberating. Coffice culture has deleted the monotony often associated with the daily office grind. It’s a thing. The day of the digital nomad is here – people are doing business anywhere and anytime, with ease, excellence and efficiency. I’m a liberated digital diva and proud of it. Join the mobile tribe, why don’t you?

My Coffice recommendations on the Atlantic Seaboard & in the CBD, that meet my expectations: free limited and unlimited Wi-Fi, great coffee and a good vibe:

Shift Espresso Bar in Green Point

Loading Bay in de Waterkant

Crossley & Webb in Gardens

Kleinsky’s in Green Point

Liquorice & Lime in Tamboerskloof

The House of Machines in Shortmarket Street

* Molten Toffee on Kloof Street

Jarryd’s in Sea Point

Saucisse Deli at the Biscuit Mill

Bootlegger in Sea Point

The Handle Bar on the Foreshore

Red Sofa in Vredehoek

* Breakaway Café in the CBD

WS

@allisonfoat / www.capetowndiva.com