In between meetings recently, I decided to set myself up in a coffee shop for a couple of hours with my laptop. Driving past a pub that I know is friendly and welcoming, I considered going in, but thought better of it. Why? Well, partly because I wasn’t sure if they had WiFi and accessible plug sockets or not, partly because I wanted to blend into the background and not be drawn into conversation, and partly because I felt a bit uncomfortable about simply plugging myself into their hospitable environment and ‘working’.
I settled on a coffee shop chain which has plug sockets next to pretty much every table by the wall, actively promotes it’s free WiFi and is busy and bustling with a variety of people. Parents with young children, groups of friends, people on their own busy with laptops and phones. I could simply blend in anonymously. Perfect!
Wondering if I’m alone in this view, I straw polled a few others, and they all had the same opinion – they’d rather be invisible to quietly get on with some work in peace. Headphones take care of the background noise if necessary, but it’s also satisfying to be part of a buzzing environment without having to contribute anything.
Another example is the clothes shop. Walking into a very personal boutique can feel quite pressurised as opposed to a chain store where you don’t feel in any way obliged to make conversation or show any interest.
If you run a business where your customers come into your environment, it’s important to be aware of people’s personal space. Each of us are different, so you need to tune in quickly to see if they prefer interaction or to be left alone.