Being location independent is awesome!! Well, most of the time… Not having to commute, working from your PJ’s and being so close to your fridge can be super fun but working from home all the time can be challenging.
I’ve recently discovered this world and it sure isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. The amount of temptations that could distract you from your work is limitless (Just a little laundry here and there or a 10 min nap is not ideal for your productivity…). Also being cooped up at home all day long will drive you crazy eventually. this is why working occasionally from a coffee shop could be a good solution for you.
So… Why should you work from a coffee shop, what would you need to take in consideration and how do you find the best one to work from?
Working in a cafe has become the bread and butter of freelance culture. literally. but are you a coffee-shop person? Here are some pros and cons of working in a coffee shop:
1. It’s a nice change of scenery.
Sometimes getting out of your sweatpants and going out to see the world could be just what you needed to get those creative juices flowing.
2. It helps your productivity.
This might seem counter-intuitive at first, coffee shops are often noisy and full of distractions but in fact, once you get used to it, the low-level hum helps to shut out other background noises and all the home-temptations we’ve mentioned (bed, Netflix) are not an option anymore… Also, A recent study backs up the belief that being around other people can make you perform better, which is known as the “audience effect”.
3. It’s fun.
When you finally do take a break you can chat with the staff, look out the window at the view or people watch (my fav), much better than staring at the same four walls all the time. Plus – you don’t need to cook or worry about food/constant caffeine supply.
Tip: Try to find a friend that also works remotely and go to work from a coffee shop together. You can use the breaks for some chit-chat and catching up and you’ll have another person to be accountable to.
1. It can get pricey.
Drinking coffee outside every day + the occasional lunch can add up after a while.
TIP: Try asking if the coffee shop has a loyalty card. It might be minor but if you’re going there anyway might as well get something out of it….or just come after you had lunch. This way you’ll be less tempted to get a big pricey dish.
2. The bathroom dilemma.
When you’re working from a coffee shop going to the bathroom becomes a major life decision and if you’re drinking half as much as I do it can be a definite issue. Should you leave your things? Should you ask someone to keep an eye on them or should you just hold it in for a while…? LoL.
3. It can be Distracting.
Well, first of all – there is no place like home. No coffee shop will ever have the exact temperature you want, your comfy chair or your favorite tunes playing all the time. Plus, The number of likely distractions at a coffee shop can be through the roof: People coming in and out, loud noises and there is always this one guy on his phone. Always.
Getting comfortable with working in a coffee shop takes some time, in the beginning, I was all over the place – constantly looking around, every noise would make me turn… But you also get used to it and learn to enjoy it.
Tip: Come prepared with everything you’ll need to help you stay comfortable and focused: Charger, extension cord, headphones, notepad and pen, a sweater (for the AC) or even an extra hair scrunchie… whatever makes you feel at your best.
Ok, so you’ve decided to take the plunge and go to your local coffee shop to get some work done. A few things to remember when scouting out the best coffee shop:
Contrary to popular belief, not all coffee shops are laptop-friendly. Some won’t have Wi-Fi or outlets or just don’t want you to work from there (Taking up a seat for a couple of hours and just ordering coffee is probably not a favorable business plan for café owners). Try to find ones that will make you feel comfortable to stay for a long time, preferably that has other workers to at least create the illusion of productivity (remember the “audience effect”?).
Tip #1: Look for the signs. Some shops will actually have “No laptop” policies and others will advertise good Wi-Fi (These places are usually more laptop friendly).
Tip #2: Always check Opening Hours in advance. There’s nothing worse than getting into a productive flow, and then hearing “We are closing now, can I bring you the check?”
When you’re on the clock Time=Money. You don’t want to spend too much time going back and forth to a café unless it’s super special and worth it. If you live in a city like me or traveling in a “digital nomad” friendly location you’ll find a hand pick of coffee shops to choose from, So staying in your 10-15 min walk radios is best.
Tip: Look up online (Use Google Maps/Tripadvisor/local bloggers) to map out all of the local coffee shops. Try a few out and see what works best for you (big or small, local or chain). Also, ask friends or fellow remote workers for recommendations if you’re not sure where to begin…
The golden goose of all workspaces. Public spaces are notorious for having poor or unstable Wi-Fi. Take the time to scout out the Wi-Fi or ask one of the staff before you order. Also, take in consideration that the Wi-Fi probably varies during the day (usually slows down during rush hour).
Sometimes it’s not the quantity, it’s the quality. The ambiance of a workplace is key – that perfect combination of the lightning, sounds, seats, atmosphere – all put together. Because it varies from person to person unfortunately it’s not something you can find on Yelp, you just need to go out and try it for yourself.
Tip: It can be nice to work with a gentle hum of noise around you but a loud party or a screaming baby can ruin your productivity completely. Try to avoid cafes that are meeting places for teenagers or are baby-oriented (at least at specific hours).
Find them before you choose a table and get comfortable. There is nothing more annoying than the “battery low” message when you just got your momentum going. Plus, you don’t want to string your cable across the floor tripping up the staff and other guests.
If you’re planning to stay for a while seating really matters! Sitting uncomfortably for a couple of hours on a cold stone seat is not the best idea…
furthermore, avoid sitting near the door, the register, the restroom or at any location with massive traffic for fewer distractions.
AC – Finding the perfect temperature seat can be tricky. Try out a few spots and see if it’s not too close/far from the AC (according to your preference) and in any case – an extra jacket/scarf is always a good idea if you’re extra sensitive.
7. Good Quality Coffee & Food Options
The quality of the coffee and the food is, of course, an important factor. If you’re spending a few good hours at a café or there during lunch hours it’s likely you’re going to get so might as well be a good food.
Bonus point: if you get to eat at different cafes you also get to try different kinds of new food. Just try to choose a coffee shop that also offers healthy, nutritious food. A Salad or a sandwich will give you more energy than that a croissant (no matter how tempting it is).
Tip: if you have specific food/ beverage preference (only soy milk/plant-based/Gluten free diet …) make sure in advance that the place you choose is serving it.
Buying drinks a couple of times a day can quickly add up. If you’re going to be working in a coffee shop a lot, finding somewhere inexpensive can dramatically impact your monthly budget.
Not all cafés are created equally… Make sure that the coffee shop you choose has all the amenities in order for you to work comfortably for a long time: picking a place where you feel safe leaving your laptop for a moment, an accessible, clean restroom etc.
10. Staff Friendliness
This is not a must but defiantly a bonus point. The pleasure of good service or on the contrary can make or break your coffee shop experience. Also, when you get a little lonely or bored – chatting up with a staff is always nice.
There is definitely a culture around working in a café. Here are a few tips for becoming a pro-café worker:
1. Buy Something Every Few Hours
If you’re going to take up a table and use the Wi-Fi, the least you can do is order something. A cup of coffee (or tea) is a must but if you’re staying longer than an hour or two you should probably order something more substantial or at least something small every two hours or so.
2. Tip Well
Tip the waiters/ barista for having to put up with you for a long time. They sometimes rely on these tips and once there is no good turnover of tables they lose some of their livelihood. Leave a few dollars to say thank you and I’m sure they’ll be happier next time you come back.
3. Don’t take more space than you need
It may feel homey but it’s not really your home/ office. Take a smaller desk as possible and try not to take up more than one seat if you’re by yourself.
4. Don’t talk on your phone at the table
Please don’t be “That Guy” (or girl). You know him, the one talking extremely loud on their phone about personal matters or yelling about work-related issues. No, I don’t want to know what your friend did last night or all the deats about your tax report… Respect the café and its customers by keeping noise to a minimum. If you have to take a call try to keep your voice low or step outside for a couple of minutes.
5. Don’t overstay your welcome
Each café has its own set of rules and culture. If you see the coffee shop crowding up and people struggling to find seats while you’ve been seating there for the last 4 hours on a cup of coffee it’s probably a good time to pack up…
Finding the perfect coffee shop and your coffee-shop working mojo may take some time and practice. In the beginning, it could fill a bit wired to get into “coffee-shop working mode” but it can also be lots of fun as well as a great routine break.
I hope you found this little guide helpful.
Do you have any other great tips for working from a coffee shop? Please let me know in the comments!
Love this guide – so in-depth! I love working from a coffee shop occasionally – it definitely helps me with productivity if I’m running up against a big deadline.
Thanks so much, Brittany! glad to hear that!
What a nice post. I have been lucky and found the perfect coffeeshop to work from. When they saw I came reguarly they gave me a special discount and when they saw that I need an electrical outlet for my computer that was getting old, they actually installed on just for me – at the table I normally use. They always bring my order when I come in, without even asking and they always look out for my stuff when I go to the bathroom. I love my coffeeshop.
How great!!! That does sounds like the Holy Grail of all coffee shops! Thanks for sharing that Bettina! I wish us all coffee ships like that!