Now that my daughter is in school full-time, my schedule is much more flexible. I’m not only able to put in more hours, but I can also work wherever and whenever I want. For instance, after I drop my daughter off at school, I can head to over the nearest coffee shop, do a couple of hours of work, then head out for a yoga class, appointment, or attend to some errands.
While being a work-at-home woman allows for this flexibility, there are some general tips and guidelines will make working from a coffee shop much more enjoyable and productive.
1. What's the Reason?
As an introvert, I'm perfectly happy to stay-at-home and complete my work, but if you're more of a social butterfly who needs social interaction, take this knowledge into consideration when deciding where to work.
If your main goal is to interact with others, maybe a coffee shop isn't your ideal workspace, perhaps a shared coworking space is more your speed since they cater to long-term work arrangements.
For myself, the main reason I work away from my home is due to other errands, obligations, and events going on in my life, so I generally only need a space for a short period. Whatever your reason (social interaction, working on the go, meeting a client, etc.) for working outside the home, consider it before deciding on an establishment.
Related Content: 23 of the Best Coworking Spaces in the U.S
2. Internet Connection
I remember when I first started working from home, many coffee shops had complicated wifi requirements, and the majority of the time they were not free. This is not the case anymore; most coffee shops and restaurants offer free wifi so that you can work away from home. But don’t just assume this, make sure to call ahead and find out before you head out the door. Packing up your home office will be a waste of time if you’re driving around and searching for an establishment that offers free wifi. You can also search for sites like Open WiFi Spots to help you locate free hotspots.
3. Where to Work
An essential aspect of working in a coffee shop will be your workspace. At a minimum, you’ll need a chair, a small table, and possibly access to an outlet – unless you have a long battery life or a backup battery. Now you’re probably thinking, yes that’s a no-brainer! While I love Starbucks' beverages, if you’ve tried to set up office during their peak morning hours, you know that this can be a quite a challenging task. With long lines, packed tables, and a noisy atmosphere, I find that this is not an ideal space for working in the early morning hours.
Finding the perfect location will probably take some experimentation on your part, but look for establishments that offer an ideal workspace, for the time slot that you’re working in. By figuring out establishments' busy times, you can avoid the hassles of overcrowding, noise, and distractions.
4. Coffee Shop Etiquette
Many coffee shops and restaurants have rules on their wifi login page, along with each establishment's rules, here’s some general coffee shop etiquette that should be followed.
- Sit at the smallest table possible, with one chair; this allows for other patrons also to use the establishment.
- Abide by the time limits set by the establishment, or be mindful of your time during peak hours.
- Depending on where you are working, you will need to tip the server based not only the bill amount, but by the time you took up their table. For walk-up establishments, your overall bill should reflect the amount of time that you spent there.
- Don’t add to the noise. Put your cell phone on vibrate, and don’t watch videos or listen to music without headphones.
- Clean up after yourself.
- First things first – decide what you’re going to order and give the barista your full attention. Talking on your cell phone or texting when you’re supposed to be placing your order is rude and disrespectful to all parties involved.
It never fails, every time I’m working at a coffee shop, I end up needing to use the restroom (does this happen to anyone else?). So I pack up all of my gear and haul it to the bathroom with me – talk about a pain in the butt! While some people may say I’m paranoid, I would be devastated if someone stole my laptop. To solve this problem, you can purchase a laptop lock. Not only does this keep your computer safe and secure, but you save time and your table.
Another consideration to think about is working on a shared wifi network. Whenever I'm working on a shared network, I refrain from logging into my bank, credit card, and other sensitive information accounts. You'll also want to be mindful of keeping your client's personal information private and safe as well.
Related Content: How to Protect Your Privacy on Public Wi-Fi Networks
6. What Are You Working On?
I enjoy working at coffee shops, but some tasks don’t transfer well. Tasks that involve a lot of paper or files, telephone conversations, or downloading large files when you're sharing bandwidth are better left for your home office. Plan our your outings, so that the tasks you are focusing on reflect the environment that you’re working in.
7. Find Out About Deals and Discounts
One summer, my daughter was enrolled in a bunch of half-day camps, which were a reasonable distance from our house. This meant that for me to get any work done that I needed to work relatively close to her camps. Over three weeks, this working at coffee shops, cafes, and bookstores started to get expensive! If you're going to be working at a coffee shop, restaurant, or coworking space for an extended period, find out if they have any customer reward programs or discounts. For instance, Starbucks has a Rewards Program, which rewards customers with free drinks and food. Panera Bread also has a Rewards Card where you can earn points for free food and beverages. Some establishments offer a discount if you bring in your own coffee cup.
Related Content: 8 Ways to Earn FREE Starbucks Coffee and Gift Cards
As long as you have an internet connection, you can pretty much work anywhere. Coffee shops tend to be some of my favorite places to work with their quaint environments, their endless supply of caffeine, and free internet connections! Just remember, to do a little planning ahead of time to ensure that your coffee shop meets all of your requirements so that you can be productive when you're working away from home.
What tips do you have for working in a coffee shop? Where is your favorite place to work that offers free wifi? Drop us a note; we'd love to hear from you!
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Originally published September 19, 2012. Content updated in June 2019.
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