The coffee shop office life isn't for everyone.

The Coffee Shop Office: How to Work Productively at a Cafe

Posted on June 26th, 2017 by Steffen

When Working At Home Is Not An Option

As a freelancer working remotely, you’re well aware of its many perks. You get a lot of control over when, how, and where you work. But sometimes working from home isn’t conducive to your productivity or just not an option. The next ‘professional option’ would be to join a coworking space, but those can be costly. Especially when all you need is an outlet, an internet connection, and some elbow room.

Enter the Coffee Shop Office

The coffee shop is a great place to relax and socialize. You can take advantage of that laid-back environment by packing up your laptop and rooting yourself inside your favorite coffee house. If your work requires additional hardware such as a second monitor or tablet, this might not be an option. For most freelancers, however, a laptop will suffice.

The advantages of the coffee shop as a workplace are clear as day. It provides a pleasant environment to work in, free electricity and WiFi for your laptop, easy access to public bathrooms, and a direct line to the caffeine you need to stay at the top of your game. It sounds ideal. But only if you know what to look for in a coffee shop office.

Public Distractions And How To Avoid Them

To keep your productivity up at a cafe you’re going to want to avoid any and all distractions. Distractions are the prime killer of all remote workers’ productivity, especially those working at home. The coffee shop is no different. In some ways, they are worse due to the constant flux of new customers entering and leaving.

The coffee shop is a place to socialize, so you should never fault others for doing just that. Although some find the hustle and bustle of their local cafe inspiring or even calming, most would rather block out all audio and visual distractions. Now’s the time to invest in noise-cancelling headphones to turn the chattering group of friends next to you into your work music playlist.

Of course, there is another way of minimizing the customer factor before you’ve even sat down.

Location, Location, Location

Unlike the coffee they sell, coffee shops are a dime a dozen. This gives most locations ample choice when it comes to selecting your new workplace. To avoid distractions, you must find the coffee shop hidden away enough not to be a revolving door for customers. But it also should have a quality high enough to make it worth paying money for their product. You’re gonna have to buy something at some point.

No one knows your work habits and distraction levels better than you. So when you’re in the cafe, pick a location you can work with. Above all, don’t forget you’ll want a strong WiFi signal and an outlet nearby to avoid entangled cables. Consider the corner location facing the wall to minimize visual distractions. The window view to give yourself a little visual white noise while you work. Or maybe you want to be close to the bathrooms, just in case.

When Nature Calls

You better have a plan ready for the inevitable bathroom break. In many coffee shops, it’s not practical to leave your belongings on a table while you take care of business. Unless you brought a friend, you’re going to need to pack it all up. Asking a stranger to mind your stuff is a sure-fire route to disaster. If the coffee shop you chose is small enough, you might ask the owner to keep an eye out for you. If your coffee shop has even moderate foot traffic, it’s simply not an option. Buying yourself a laptop lock might be a solution. But a laptop lock doesn’t prevent vandalism or a stranger’s spilled coffee.

Consider your bathroom tactic ahead of time to avoid awkward moments at best, and stolen property at worst.

Those Who Have Gone Before You

In many ways, the Coffee Shop Office is an adventure. It’s a retreat from the isolation of home and a deft dodge of the costs of a coworking space. If you feel strange setting up shop at your local cafe, don’t worry. Entire dissertations have been written, novels have been drafted, and Power Points have been finalized at the coffee shop. Once you’re in the zone, you could build a roster of clients from the cafe.

You’re not the first, nor will you be the last. But in many ways, you’re still stretching their free facilities to the limit. So maybe get yourself a bagel with your coffee today and leave a nice tip.