Self-employed workers have turned Starbucks and McDonald’s into adjunct office space. Carting their laptops and briefcases, freelancers and other people who work from home are leaving their kitchen tables and setting up shop anywhere they can find free Wi-Fi and a decent cup of coffee.
For some time, coffee shops, family restaurants like Bob Evans and hotel chains have encouraged such mobile office behavior to attract traveling workers and the growing army of entrepreneurs and virtual workers. But tough economic times have businesses looking for ways to boost their bottom lines. There’s a new movement afoot to charge workers for using space that was formerly free, or at least available for the price of a latte.
Some hotel chains have started renting out common areas to workers. Spaces offer quiet alcoves for client meetings, use of small conference rooms, internet access and table space. While many spaces are available on an hourly or daily basis for travelers or business people who only need to impress clients occasionally, quite a few hotels have begun offering more permanent office space with monthly rental agreements.
Marriott has begun offering Workspace on Demand at a number of its San Francisco and Washington properties. Westin offers similar services in Boston and Arlington, Virginia. The company LiquidSpace is carving a niche for itself as a facilitator of non-traditional work spaces, serving as a booking agent for hotels that want to turn their common areas into money makers.
Many workers are finding hotel lobbies a more convenient place to work and meet clients than other venues. Attractively decorated with food and coffee readily at hand, hotels are conveniently located and have high profiles that not only make them easy to find but lend a professional ambience to business proceedings. Greater productivity is another reason for the growing appeal of hotel and other away-from-home office options. Many workers find they are able to be more productive away from the distractions of home life.
Starbucks isn’t onboard with the pay-for-use concept yet, but you may find work space options on their order board in the not so distant future.