Oon Yeoh hard at work. You wouldn’t want to mess with him as he’s also a judo champ….
Anybody who knows me or who likes my Facebook page would know exactly what I mean when I say “I’m working out of my mobile office today”. And just in case they don’t, I’ll usually post a picture of the café I’m at.
I’m a telecommuter, which means I sometimes work from home. I even work sometimes from my car (stationary and not in motion, of course) and often times from a coffee shop.
Working from home is fine if you don’t have to conduct any meetings. Working from a car is reserved for urgent situations. The coffee shop is the most versatile place as it is also suitable for conducting meetings.
There are tables and chairs and sometimes even sofas in place. There’s Wi-Fi for Internet access and electrical outlets for charging your laptop. And of course, there’s food and drink. What more do you need?
No doubt, the cost of food and drinks at high-end coffee shops are on the high side. I am not a coffee connoisseur and I would normally balk at paying RM10 (and more) for a cup of coffee, no matter how fancy it is.
But I don’t consider that to be the price I’m paying for the coffee per se. Rather, I view it as the fee I pay to use their furniture, electricity, Wi-Fi and so on. When you take all that into consideration, it’s actually quite a bargain.
An acquaintance recently asked me why I don’t just rent an office since I have so many meetings on a regular basis. I replied that the overheads are much cheaper at coffee shops!
I usually schedule many meetings on the same day so as to make the most of my time at my mobile office. But I always end up meeting some other acquaintances as well.
This is especially true when I hang out at the Starbucks in Bangsar Village 2, which I consider to be the best outlet because there’s ample space with lots of sofas and tables. It’s very comfortable and great for meetings. It’s a very popular mobile office for many people.
These unscheduled and unexpected meetings are a blessing. In our hustle and bustle world, we normally put aside time to meet only people whom we have some work matter to discuss with. This leaves us with few opportunities to meet other acquaintances. Serendipitous meetings at coffee shops help to correct that situation.
If you’re going to be working from a café for any extended period of time, you’ll inevitably have to go to the restroom. What do you do with your laptop and whatever else you’ve got laid out on the table?
I know someone who is comfortable leaving everything on the table when he goes off to the restroom. He says he’s never had anything stolen before so he does this as a regular practice. This is not something I recommend, however.
Of course it’s not practical to lug all your laptop to the restroom with you. You could ask the person sitting nearby to help keep an eye on your laptop although that’s hardly the safest approach. A better way is to use a laptop lock like the kinds made by Kensington.
Mobile Office Etiquette
To be fair to the café as well as to other paying customers, you should regularly replenish your food and drink. Of course there is always the temptation to just hold on to that one cup of coffee for the entire duration. But don’t be a squatter. The longer you stay, the more you should buy.
That’s not a problem for me because I usually meet people when I’m at my mobile office so I’ll end up buying them food and drinks anyway. I am a good customer.
I’ve been working this way for several years now and I love it. You should give it a try too. Isn’t it nice to have mobile offices all over Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya?
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.