You’re about to see a growing trend of ‘laptop workers’ in coffee shops – new research reveals why

Working in cafes and pubs has been common among freelancers for years. But as hybrid work becomes the new ‘normal’, it will become a defining trend for 2023.

New research from Swinburne University of Technology, in partnership with, explored the appeal of working from coffee shops and other alternative locations, what they are used for and how workers behave there.

A recent study by OpenTable revealed that nearly half of remote workers now spend time each week working from coffee shops or other third-party locations. The trend is particularly popular among Gen Z workers, 10 percent of whom say third places are now their preferred place to work.

The Swinburne survey shows that when it comes to third-place places to work, coffee shops are a firm favorite – but participants mentioned that they also sometimes use other third-places, such as libraries, pubs, parks and co-working spaces.

On average, researchers found that people who work third jobs typically do so between 2-3 times each week. They will stay anywhere between 15 minutes and 4 hours and spend between 4 and 30 Australian dollars per visit. Most of the time they will go to third place on their own. When they use a third location for small meetings, the size of the meeting rarely exceeds 2 or 3 people.

The most common work tasks performed outside the home and office are in-depth individual work, creative thinking/working, reading, administrative tasks, documents, emails, small meetings and informal phone calls.

“We identified a range of different third-party users,” says lead researcher and Swinburne Innovation Fellow Associate Professor John Hopkins. “‘Device Disconnectors’ like to visit third places for a quick break from technology, ‘Caffeine Creatives’ use a change of environment as a mental reset to help them think creatively, ‘Suburban Socialites’ like to counteract the threat of loneliness during work-from-home with short regular visits to the local third place, and ‘Lunchtime Connections’ use third places for regular meetings with clients or colleagues, often combining this with lunch or breakfast.”

There are many factors that draw workers to a third-place location — including good coffee, price, nice music, privacy and outdoor space — but the most popular responses were:

  • I feel welcome
  • reviews
  • wi-fi and electrical outlets

For the most part, “laptop workers” want a nice, friendly atmosphere – one that isn’t too crowded, noisy, or pressured by staff to leave after a certain amount of time.

“Places looking to attract these types of workers might have signs welcoming people to work inside, provide dedicated workspace, advertise the wi-fi password, or offer special packages, such as a two-hour package that includes unlimited coffee and sandwich,” adds Hopkins.

Sandwiches are a good bet. The survey found that workers are opting for snacks and light meals, with more than half of third-party workers saying they would only buy something they could “eat with one hand” – with sandwiches, cakes, cookies and muffins being the most popular choices .

The top three benefits of working third are thought to be mental reset, community and social connection, and great food and coffee. When asked to what extent the third-place job positively contributes to their overall well-being, the average response was 86 percent.

The chance that you will continue to use a third place of employment in the future is 98 percent. However, it has been found that not all work assignments are suitable for third places. Workers said they strongly avoid these environments when working on something of a confidential nature (or with security or privacy risks), for longer or larger meetings, and when performing tasks that require a larger screen or other specialized equipment .

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