From cubicle to coffice


A totally new clientele has started to populate cafés around the world: brainworkers who favor a buzzing public space over a static office environment.

While the debate over the pros and cons of cubicles and remote work continues, many creatives choose to skip office life altogether. Rentable co-work spaces respond to this demand but an increasing number of individuals prefer setting up their basecamp in the nonwork-like environment of public cafés.

“A stimulating environment keeps the brain agile,” says seasoned cofficer Tero Isokauppila, founder of Four Sigma Foods, a health food start-up operating in Europe, the US and Asia. 

Isokauppila says working in a public space is efficient, if you make it so. A fair amount of self-discipline and orderliness is needed since the element of social control is missing.
The start-up crowds love this concept. But does this way of working have any relevance to corporations?
“It completely depends on the job description and role. I used to work for a multinational consulting agency and while traveling, I would sometimes write reports while sitting in cafés and restaurants,” says Isokauppila.
He admits traditional offices do have upsides: usually they ensure better ergonomics and provide social interaction. Yet, work communities can also be so interactive that tasks are constantly interrupted. Or, on the contrary, they may be painfully unsocial – whereas many established coffices have formed a distinct culture and social environment that a newcomer can easily slot into.
“Make sure you choose a café located close to your accommodation. You don’t want to lose precious working time in commuting,” hints Isokauppila. 

Tero Isokauppila shares his favorite coffices in ten cities around the world. 

1 LOS ANGELES – Café Gratitude

“This café on Venice Beach is very uplifting without being too hippie-ish. Whatever state of body and mind you are looking for, you are likely to find it here: portions have names like I am powerful. Tasty organic food, free parking, fast wifi.” 


“Melbourne is a coffee culture haven, and the city hosts many of the world’s best cafés. St. Ali is the most convenient for working. It is located on a side street, uninhabited by tourists. Long, shared tables and an airy, lofty space with high ceilings guarantee a liberating atmosphere.”

3 HONG KONG – The Coffee Academics

“A good location on a side alley close to Times Square, yet hidden from the crowds. Lovely interior and extremely attentive service in true Asian style. Less communal than some of the other places I’ve recommended, this café is great for work that demands high concentration.”
4 NEW YORK – Budin

“Budin reflects the Nordic trend prevalent in NYC. Finnish design brands like Marimekko and Iittala are all over the place, so to me this café feels like a piece of home abroad. Located in Green Point, Budin has less hustle and bustle than an average New York City diner.”
5 LONDON – Ace Hotel

“This hotel chain is well known among start-ups for their excellent free wifi and relaxed ambience. You can make some interesting acquaintances while sipping on your green juice.”
6 VANCOUVER – Revolver

“An energetic and upbeat café suitable for working in my favorite city in the entire world. Good location with lots of interesting restaurants nearby.”
7 PARIS – Café Craft

“Very calm, modern and technically well equipped. In other words, the opposite of a traditional Parisian café, which tend to be great for idling but far from optimal for working.” 
8 MANILA – Kuppa Roastery

“This place may not have the best location, but according to my experience after living in Manila, it is definitely my favorite. The service level is outstanding and coffee is home-roasted. And the wifi works, which is not self-evident in the Philippines.”
9 HELSINKI – Johan & Nyström

“I have noticed a positive trend in Helsinki: many intriguing new cafés and restaurants keep popping up. Known for their top-notch coffee and impressive selection of teas, Johan & Nyström is also one of the only cafés in town serving raw food cakes. Suitable for both individual work and team meetings.”
10 TOKYO – Streamer Coffee

“The passion for perfection is well visible in the cafés of this chain. It inspires me to outperform in my own job as well. Scandinavian style interior design meets Japanese architecture and the best service culture in the world.”
Text by Kati Heikinheimo
Photo by St. Ali, Melbourne
A longer version of this article was originally published in Finnair's Blue Wings magazine (March 2015).

Published March 19, 2015

Category: Collaboration