Is Your Workplace Café Socially Savvy?

Feb. 1, 2017

The most common reason employees use social media at work is to “take a mental break from their job.” So said 34 percent of the 2,000+ employed adults in a research study of such trends released in June 2016 by the Pew Research Center.

No big surprise there, but social media at work’s not all fun and (online) games, according to the Pew report. Other responses included:

  • 24% [use social media] to make or support professional connections;
  • 20% to get information that helps them solve problems at work;
  • 17% to build or strengthen personal relationships with co-workers;
  • 17% to learn about someone they work with;
  • 12% to ask work-related questions of people outside their organization; and
  • 12% to ask questions of people inside their organization.

A majority of those surveyed (56 percent) said using social media ultimately helps their job performance, but other sources reveal that there is confusion among employees about their employer’s ability to “peek” into their activity on company provided devices and employee-owned devices.

As a result, many companies are implementing “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies, and allowing employees to use them for both personal and work-related uses. But more on that later.

I had an opportunity to sit down recently with Steve Orlando, CMO of Fixturelite, one of the industry’s leading suppliers of fixtures for micro markets, workplace cafés and break rooms. And while our discussion was wide-ranging, it kept returning to one consistent premise: If you’re going to make the workplace café a rewarding experience, it should extend beyond just great coffee to allow the use of social media and company technology in a welcoming environment.

JH: Does the trend toward the new workplace café truly embrace social media and use-of-technology for all employees?

SO: Absolutely. What used to be considered “grabbing a cup of coffee” has now become a “rewarding employee experience.” We’re being asked by customers – and we’re recommending – that the new cafés include more outlets, charging stations for mobile devices, Ethernet ports and 24/7 access to the company’s wi-fi or network. In some cases, we’re including tablets designed right into the fixtures. That, along with comfortable seating, creates more of an employee lounge-type atmosphere that allows them to truly “take a break,” or keep working in a more relaxed environment than a conference room or a cubicle.

JH: What are the upsides of a socially savvy workplace café?

SO: In terms of employees, especially Millennials and Generation Z, satisfaction with their employer would be the No.1 benefit, which is critical to them, followed closely by more collaboration, deeper workplace friendships, higher productivity, lower turnover and longer tenures. Those also can be turned on their head to be employer benefits as well.

But allowing employees to use their own devices (with unrestricted access to the Internet) or company-issued devices also presents an opportunity to create company-sponsored messaging, promotions for paid items, even advertising – all of which can result in greater ROI in the café itself.

In some ways, it’s a no-brainer. If employees feel truly welcome in the café, then they will spend more time and money there. And they won’t be running off premise two or more times a day to get a Starbucks, creating incremental productivity benefits.

To a lesser degree, I’ve had recent discussions about implementing geo-tracking systems to better understand employee behavior in the café itself, allowing operators to know who’s sitting within close proximity to the café, predicting behaviors through peaks and valleys, and pushing notifications, offers and promotions to employees.

JH: That last part sounds a little Orwellian. Regardless, what are the downsides of this workplace café technology trend, if any?

SO: The trend could backfire if employers don’t convey a strong sense of trust and autonomy in their employees, again very important to Millennials and Gen Z. In a world of BYOD, where work life and personal life are inextricably intertwined throughout the workday, employers have to be clear about their BYOD and use-of-technology policies. If employees don’t believe that they can surf freely (but within the policies of their employers), then the trust gap widens rather than narrows.

JH: So what does the future hold in terms of workplace cafés becoming more socially savvy?

SO: Among those employers who really embrace this concept, I think they will see employees who are running to the company café and collaborating with co-workers rather than running to the corner coffee shop. They will see empowered employees who are stitched into the fabric of the employer’s culture. And they will see incubators for even greater productivity and profits.

For more information on the Pew Research Center study on “Social Media and the Workplace,” go to

For more information on BYOD policies, go to

About the Author

John Healy

John Healy is Co-Founder of The Vending Marketer -- -- a digital marketing agency that exclusively serves vending, OCS, micro market and other refreshment services businesses. He is also CEO of Healy Consulting & Communications Inc., a traditional, digital and social media marketing firm that strives to ensure its clients’ relevance while fueling their growth and success. His affiliation with the industry dates back to 2009 through his image campaign work for NAMA. Reach him at [email protected]