My favourite place to work remotely is my kitchen bench. Yes, I'm probably in my what I call "house pants" - you might call them pyjamas. Rather than make idle chit-chat with a colleague in the tearoom if I have a minute to spare, I can get a load of washing on. I can be home if I need a tradesman to call in. The three-o'clock slump is filled with some dinner preparation. I don't need to drive anywhere, thus giving myself an extra hour in the day. It's the perfect working day.
But other people prefer to get out of the house. While coworking spaces are popping up throughout Canberra to serve this need - creative communities offering not only high-speed Wi-Fi and meeting rooms, but fun things like ping pong tables and free beer - it's our cafes that are increasingly doubling up as "coffices".
Half-coffee shop, half-office, the term "coffice" first appeared on Urban Dictionary as far back as 2008. But as globalisation and technological advancement have increased, so has our mobile workforce.
A recent survey by the International Workplace Group found almost 50 per cent of Australian employees work remotely for at least half of the week, while more than two-thirds work at least one day a week outside the office. And a lot of them are finding a spot in a cafe near you.
Alex Piris, who owns and runs Farrer's Fox and Bow and Manolo's in Phillip, with his wife Nicole, welcomes remote workers in his cafes but is happy to give them a nudge if they outstay their welcome.
"Both our cafes have been mini offices to many folk over the past few years," he says.
"On any given day all you'll see are laptops spread out amongst the tables. I tend to think I'd rather have a cafe full of people on their computers than an empty shop. And people attract people."
He says most of his regular "office workers" are usually pretty good at moving on if big groups come in or tables are needed.
"There's a bit of mutual respect that takes place," he says. And that extends to buying something, a coffee at least, but "pay for a meal and that table's yours".
He says he's always curious as to what people are up to.
"One of our regulars at Fox and Bow works for Apple as an app developer, another at Manolo's will usually order three to four pots of English Breakfast while working on his online poker game.
"But mostly they keep to themselves. Who knows what they're really up to? To be honest, it's none of my business. Pots of tea, Spanish eggs, that's my business."
Highroad in Dickson is a remote worker's dream location. There are power points everywhere, good Wi-Fi, different seating options and a team who is happy for you to practically move in.
"We love it when the place is full," says manager Lauren Greig. "We seat 140 so it's a busy day when we have to ask the workers to move on. Most of them know our busy times and respect that."
It's a Tuesday morning and there are several meetings going on. Small groups gathered around a laptop and papers, others on their own, headphones in, typing away.
Greig is working the room, chatting to regulars, wiping tables, making sure everyone feels at home.
I'm seated at a large communal bench in the middle of the restaurant.
Two men to my left are discussing, of all things, the design of The Canberra Times and our new ownership. Across from me a young man is reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Another woman is scrolling through Instagram while she waits for her takeaway coffee.
If we're worried about remote workers being socially isolated, perhaps "coffices" are just the remedy.
Seven of our favourite 'coffices'
Fox and Bow
Grab the high table at the back of the cafe and the staff might even forget you're there. There's a handy power point, enough space to spread out a bit and a good view across the cafe for people-watching. There's a real sense of community, plenty of locals dining in-house and tradesmen dropping in for takeaway coffees. Try the Andaluz-style calamari sandwich and a pot of soothing chai.
- Farrer Shops, Farrer
While a hotel restaurant and bar might seem like an unlikely place to work from if you're not a travelling guest, First Edition might surprise you. With a view out over the Alinga Street light rail station, it's about as central as you can get in the city. There are benches along the window with power points and USB stations, as well as more private corners, some with leather lounges and tables big enough for meetings. Ask the staff about the Wi-Fi, they welcome students as well.
- Novotel Canberra, Northbourne Ave, City
Come for an ONA coffee, stay for the working day. We're super impressed by High Road, not only for the warm welcome by staff - they're actually keen for you to hang around, especially midweek - but for the fresh and inspiring feel. Plenty of light, plenty of different spaces, plenty of power points. We particularly like the booths with handy outlets underneath. We like the Rueben Benedict too, a smoked pastrami, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese toastie with poached eggs and hollandaise.
- Cnr Cape and Woolley Streets, Dickson
Makeshift, formerly the site of Max Brenner, is a cafe by day and venue-for-hire by night. The cafe is operated by the fine folk at Canberra favourite Red Brick, and New Acton manages the venue-hire bookings. Makeshift is home to gorgeous vintage and retro furniture, a boutique vinyl and book collection, and occasional art pieces on display. Fekerte's, of Old Bus Depot Markets fame, also operates a hole-in-the-wall lunch spot during weekdays featuring a delicious selection of Ethiopian curries. Plenty of power points, a great vibe and free Wi-Fi.
- Phillip Law Street, New Acton
The "loungeroom" at this minimalist cafe is a lot of fun and a perfect place to get a few hours of work in. It actually feels like your home, with bookshelves, vintage vinyl and comfy cushions. Offering Red Brick Espresso coffee and a menu which champions local produce - start the day with some Three Mills fruit toast - Teddy Picker's is comfortable yet functional and quite an invigorating little space.
- 67 Constitution Ave, Campbell
You can't help but feel inspired inside the National Library. From the glorious stained-glass windows to the high ceilings, Bookplate does things well. There's free Wi-Fi, and plenty of seating. In the summer months head outside to the terrace and work with a view of the lake. The pumpkin and rosemary fritters are a good working lunch option.
- National Library, Parkes
The perfect "coffice" is one close to home, preferably within walking distance. Tilley's works for me. Tuck yourself away in a booth and it's like your own little desk. Okay, there's no Wi-Fi, but perhaps that a good thing as it cuts down on time-wasting internet surfing. At any time of the day, the seats are full of people doing more than drinking coffee.
- Wattle St, Lyneham
Do you have a favourite "coffice"? Let us know where by emailing us at email@example.com.
'Coffice' etiquette: The dos and don'ts
Make sure you buy something every two to three hours you're there. Even if it's just another cup of coffee. While the best places can feel like home, remember they're not. You're using Wi-Fi and electricity, and taking up space. Staff need to be paid. A cafe is a business.
Don't hog space
We love big communal tables and benches, but that doesn't mean you can spread your stuff everywhere. Don't leave bags around on the floor, don't spread papers everywhere. Be neat and tidy.
... too much, anyway. Some places put limits on Wi-Fi time, but don't take advantage of those who don't. If you need to stream Game of Thrones, go home. Even better, hotspot.
Don't overstay your welcome
If it looks like it's getting busy, especially around lunch or breakfast rushes, it might be time to pack up and leave. If you're taking up space at a table for four, have a quick look to see which single seats might be available.
Do be a regular
If you keep to the same place, you'll be better accommodated and your loyalty will be appreciated. And you won't feel odd asking someone to keep an eye on your gear if you need the toilet.
Do wear headphones
While part of working in a cafe is the buzz - it might even fuel creativity, or that could be the coffee - there might be times you need to zone out. Likewise, no one needs to listen to what you're doing. Keep noise levels down.
Do be polite
To staff, and to other customers. Just be nice. Big communal tables might be conducive to conversations, but people have come to work. Use your intuition as to whether people want to chat. And staff are not there to wait on you. So to speak. Say please and thank you.
Do use your inside voice
When you're on the phone, be considerate. Keep your voice down. If you need to speak louder to drown out the sound of the espresso machine or other patrons, step outside. Always use earphones when listening to music or video conferencing.
Do a quick check
Nothing worse than leaving a charger cord behind. Let alone important documents. Make sure you've got everything you brought with you. Leave a tidy space when you leave. Say thank you on the way out the door.