As I wrote a couple weeks ago, it’s possible to both exercise enough and still be sedentary. One way to combat this issue is to spend more time standing. With a good standing desk, this task becomes a lot easier. But while I can find a way to stand and work in the office, it’s a lot harder when at a cafe or coffee house. Even beneficial activities like standing up every 20 minutes (one of the best, simple things you can do for your health, according to New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds) are more difficult when working in public spaces, partly because it looks weird to randomly stand up and sit down again and partly because standing and walking around may not always be okay depending on how crowded the space is (and how safe you feel leaving your things). One way to correct this issue would be for cafes to install standing workstations. These high tables would allow patrons to work while standing, a much healthier way to work, and would also offer some ancillary benefits for the cafe.
First, standing workstations would be a good marketing pitch for the cafe. The business can stress their commitment to fitness. While advertising the high tables, the cafe can also introduce a line of healthy beverages and snacks, or simply refine their current menu to stress the health benefits of items like coffee, tea, red wine, and soy. If there are also sitting tables, or high chairs, then the cafe shouldn’t risk losing business from people too tired to stand. Additional marketing could focus around the Euro-style of the cafe, where patrons stop in for their morning cup of espresso, leaning against the bar while they quickly down the small cup.
Second, standing desks encourage more turnover in patrons. Cafes are wonderful places to go and hang out, but this kind of activity may not do much for the business’ bottom line. Personally, I often spend upwards of 2 hours in a cafe, taking up a table (though there are usually many to spare) and using wireless internet while only purchasing a small coffee. If everyone acted like me, then there would be no way many cafes could stay in business. Replacing half or more sitting tables with standing workspaces may encourage people to stay for less time or, if staying, to purchase more.
Third, high tables allow for a lot more space in the cafe. For a small 3′ by 2′ table, the chairs around it cause it to take up nearly twice as much floor space. A standing table is much more space efficient. It’s also easy to put standing tables against the walls of the cafe, filling space that may be unused in current floor plans. Fewer chairs also make the space easier to clear because there is less furniture to move off the floor.
Working while standing isn’t for everyone, and for some people, it’s just not possible for a variety of health reasons. But if cafes make a move toward encouraging standing, then the health benefits for those able to work while standing may make the activity possible long into life. And if cafes have a mix of high and low tables, then no patron will go unserved. Without this mix, however, some patrons are underserved. I want to work in cafes, but not being able to work while standing does push me to favor my office. Cafes work best when they offer the best of both workspaces, and as working while standing seems destined to get more popular in the coming years, the time for change is now.