How About a Hot Cup of Digital Detox?

A note warns visitors of the coffee shop's "laptop-free" policy. (JG Photo/Alanda Kariza)

By : Alanda Kariza | on 3:01 PM April 06, 2015
Category : Archive

Customers hanging out at the Kopiba coffee shop in Hamburg, Germany. (JG Photo/Alanda Kariza) Customers hanging out at the Kopiba coffee shop in Hamburg, Germany. (JG Photo/Alanda Kariza)

I had planned to designate Sunday as my “writing day” since the week began, not only because I was going to be fully occupied on weekdays, but also because most commercial establishments in Hamburg,  where I currently reside, are closed on Sundays. Some coffee shops, however, implement a half-day opening hours, so I thought the day was going to be perfect, as long as it's spent writing in a coffee shop.

That Sunday, raindrops fell upon the city, making it an even more beautiful setting to do some writing. I then browsed through the newly downloaded Yelp application on my phone to look for a coffee shop in my neighborhood with great ratings, reviews and, most importantly, opens until late on Sundays. The search led me to this coffee place called Kopiba and I immediately made my way there.

The staff were nice and spoke English well; the coffee was great and reasonably priced. But when I sat down and got ready to turn on my laptop, I noticed a sign that says the place was a laptop-free area. Seeing an opened laptop on my lap, a staff approached and reminded me to close it — which felt so much like being in an airplane that is about to take off. The coffee shop seemed very popular among visitors nonetheless, with people hanging out and chatting with each other over beer or coffee.

I then texted my friend to let her know we would not be able to work in this cafe. “The policy is probably only implemented on Sundays. I’ve seen a similar regulation in other coffee shops nearby,” she replied.

It turns out the cafe runs on a laptop-free policy all week, although on weekdays the device can be used on several designated tables.

Germany is apparently quite strict in imposing employment rights, especially when it comes to limiting working hours. Since 2003, the Ladenschlussgestz, the law that regulates shops’ opening hours, has restricted these establishments from being open on Sundays and on public holidays. In Hamburg, although shops are allowed to open at any desired hour from Monday to Saturday, they are still required to close on Sunday, a day observed as “a day of rest,” therefore a day where coffee shop patrons are advised not to work on their laptops.

A note warns visitors of the coffee shop's "laptop-free" policy. (JG Photo/Alanda Kariza) A note warns visitors of the coffee shop's "laptop-free" policy. (JG Photo/Alanda Kariza)

Similar policies have also been implemented in some coffee shops in different parts of the world. Lear Faye in Vancouver, Canada, has stopped allowing laptops in their cafe to prevent customers from sitting in their tiny establishment for too long. Vermont-based August First Bakery & Cafe also moved to implement the same policy, although it claims to focus more on “rekindling a sense of community” in the coffee shop. San Fransisco’s Coffee Bar decided to be more lenient on this by “only” designating screen-free hours during its peak hours.

In Jakarta, the (often overly) metropolitan city where I came from, free Wi-Fi and power outlets seem to be an integral element for popular coffee shops to provide, on top of having good coffee and a nice atmosphere. “What’s your Wi-Fi password?” is arguably one of the first questions most people ask as soon as they have peid for their coffee orders at the cashier.

I popped a question on my Twitter account on whether or not it is important for Jakarta-based coffee shops to have power outlets and free Wi-Fi. The responses varied, with a majority of them saying, unsurprisingly, that both power outlets and Wi-Fi availability are crucial elements for coffee shops. Pigar Mahdar, PR consultant, claims to use coffee shops as “portable charging stations,” meaning access to power outlets plays a major role in deciding which coffee shop to go to.

Some others, however, responded by saying that ambiance and atmosphere matter more to them than those facilities.

This, of course, eventually comes down to personal preferrence. But what about you? Would you like your coffee shop to be a place to "work away from work", or should it be that perfect spot to a digital detox?

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