Working in third places has become all the more common. In lively city centers particularly coffee houses and libraries attract many employees who search for a place to work between meetings or sometimes for a whole day. How do these people decide where to go for work? What criteria do they apply when choosing a particular coffee house or library for working?
CityWorkLife survey results provide some interesting insights on this. We asked people (N=57) working in Café Köket, a cozy coffee house at Aleksanterinkatu and at five different Helsinki City Libraries (Library 10, Kallio Library, Urban Office, Töölö Library and Itäkeskus Library) to name reasons for choosing these places for work.
Of course, suitable opening hours and the basic functions of the place were important aspects that employees considered when deciding on where to go for work. Respondents told us that they chose libraries as working places partly because they needed some books or a database that could be reached only at libraries. Additionally, some people chose the coffee house as a working space because it was known to serve good breakfast, lunch or snacks – often they wanted to have a meeting and enjoy good food at the same time.
Interestingly, however, the basic functions of the place were not the main criteria for choosing the place.
Instead, location seemed to play a greater role. It was important that the place was easily reachable by public transportation. People also mentioned that they came to the particular coffee house or library because it was close to their home, workplace, children’s daycare, customer company or some other place that they needed to visit.
Also the space and the furniture that the chosen place offered were significant reasons for choosing a particular place for work. People considered whether the space fulfilled the requirements set by their work: Whether there were tables, chairs, private corners or rooms. For example, Urban Office was known to provide collaboration spaces that could be reserved and many people chose the working space because of this opportunity. Café Köket was also known to provide meeting rooms and nice tables that could be utilized for collaboration and private working. In addition to the furniture, people also mentioned that the facilities, such as free wifi and shared computers that the space offered, played a great role in determining the working place decision. All studied places offered free wifi and shared computers for their customers’ use.
Interestingly, one important determinant of the decision where to work was atmosphere. Employees working in third places said that they chose the particular space for working because it was cozy, inspiring, peaceful and quiet enough. Some people preferred the atmosphere at libraries – they though that it was educating and peaceful whereas others complimented the cozy atmosphere and milieu of coffee shops. In general, it was thought that working in coffee shops and libraries was energizing and boosted creativity.
People also considered other working clients and friendly staff as important determinants of their decision to work in a particular third place. Particularly Café Köket, Library 10 and Kallio and Töölö Library were known to be common workplaces for many workers and this attracted people. They seemed to feel themselves fitting well with other similar customers.
In addition to these factors, familiarity of the place was also mentioned as a reason for choosing a particular place for work. For some respondents the place they chose for work was familiar already for years. Familiarity made the place safe and comfortable. This further increased the feeling that the place supported working. It also seemed that many people worked several times a week in a same third place.