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’ll need to tip the waiter based on the bill amount and the time that 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!
Originally published September 19, 2012. Content updated in June 2019.
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I LOVE working at my local diner – a little (err, lot) breakfast, a little work…great combo. I have noticed, though, that there are a lot of busy-boddies lurking over my shoulder in such a public place. For this reason, I limit my work to writing, and not so much web searching.
Holly - The Work at Home Woman
Hi Kathleen, Thanks for adding your favorite place to work! Good point, I too keep tasks like invoicing and bookkeeping for when I’m at home.
Great piece Holly! Couldn’t have said it better myself.
I hope you don’t mind if I take up a bit more comment space on your site; I wanted to focus on a particular tip you gave concerning wifi at Coffices.
It’s important for Cofficers and non-Cofficers alike to understand that the wifi you use at Coffices is neither public nor free. Wifi is a gracious benefit of being a paying customer.
Simply put: there’s no such thing as free wifi in a Coffice.
Despite the expectation of it always being there – and we do often expect it nowadays – wifi isn’t the new inalienable right. Using an open and free hotspot is the same as taking a napkin or adding sweetener to a drink – there’s an understanding that it’s something available to you as a result of being a customer.
Unfortunately, a few spoiled coffee beans can ruin the sack. So it’s not uncommon to sit in a Coffice where the owners and staff feel they have to take certain measures or create policies limiting wifi use or cutting it off completely (less so at places like corporate-owned Starbucks). It’s an unfortunate consequence of providing seemingly free, value added items like wifi that some have taken advantage of.
So, when it comes to being a responsible Coffice wifi user, a Cofficer, I’d like to offer your readers these six tips to add to the great list:
1) If you plan on sitting in a Coffice for more than an hour to use its “free” and open wifi, the common etiquette is to purchase something – coffee, pastry, lunch, etc. – at least once an hour.
2) Avoid downloading or uploading extremely large files. Never – ever – stream large media for longer than absolutely necessary. It doesn’t matter if it’s for work or your child’s first steps. These files hog bandwidth and slow connection speeds for everyone else. According to YouTube’s FAQs, standard videos can’t exceed 15 minutes. Use that as your guide.
3) To play it safe, do not download/upload, send, receive, alter or copy for sale any copyrighted or other rights protected digital content using a Coffice’s wifi network.
4) Observe the “Grandma Rule” when it comes to viewing content in a Coffice. If you’re unsure, ask yourself how you’d feel if Grandma was looking over your shoulder and seeing what you’re viewing. If you can’t picture your Grandma, swap her out for whatever figure conjures your sense of guilt, shame and impropriety.
5) If you no longer need the Internet, close your computer’s connection. If you’re still taking up space at the Coffice, the minimum purchase rule remains one item per hour (see #1 above). Remember, you’re still taking up space – that isn’t free either. Be aware of your surroundings; notably other customers. Your laptop bag doesn’t need a chair. Put it on the floor, out of traffic, and offer your extra seat to wandering non-Cofficers or a co-Cofficer.
6) Finally, when in doubt about the rules, etiquette and nuances of using Coffice-provided wifi, you can always ask someone there – staff or co-Cofficers – or just use common sense.
7) Please feel free to follow @TheCoffice, like Facebook.com/TheCoffice and check out the soon-to-be re-launched blog at http://www.TheCoffice.biz for more tips, articles and a growing community of Cofficers just like you.
Thanks again, Holly.
Professional Dad &
Chief Executive Cofficer
Holly - The Work at Home Woman
Thanks for sharing your tips Sam – appreciate it!
Coffee shop working is great, I love it. You’re right about the busy periods at Starbucks; some Starbucks here in the Los Angeles area seem to have all the laptop seats occupied all day long. Thanks for the reminder about tipping.
Hi Stefan, I bet, LA is a busy city! Our Starbucks here in Austin seems to have downtime mid-morning and late afternoon, but I’m sure if I worked closer to campus it would be crazy all of the time. Glad you enjoyed the tips!
I absolutely love the flexibility of working from remote locations. Productivity is the greatest gain here. If I can run errands and work while out and about, it’s a great time saver as far as ongoing projects. Thanks for the tips on doing it right.
Hi Heather – That’s why I work at coffee shops, it fits in with my schedule and allows me to be more productive. It’s also a nice change of scenery.