In this age of technology, coffee shops have become more than just a place to socialize with your friends or grab a cup of your favorite coffee on your way to work. There are now 3.9 million Americans working from a coffee shop, aka remotely, for their employers at least half the time. Plus, in 2017 the number of freelancers in the U.S. hit 57.3 million. That’s a 4.3 million increase from 2014 and it’s estimated that 50.9% of the U.S. population will be freelancing in 10 years if things continue as they have. Coffee shops are absorbing a lot of those remote and freelance workers who want a change of scenery to work outside of their homes. Case in point, this blog post is being written from a coffee shop.
Some coffee shops are flat our rejecting this trend by not offering wi-fi and encouraging people to continue to socialize in their space. Conversely, many coffee shops have embraced the trend and accommodate both socializers and freelancers alike. These coffee shops are really doing us a favor by making working from a coffee shop comfortable. Still there are some unofficial rules that baristas and our fellow shop goers wish we would follow to make everyone’s experience better.
7 Unofficial Rules for Working From a Coffee Shop
1. RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT EACH COFFEE SHOP SUPPORTS
First and foremost, make sure you find a coffee shop that is accepting of people working for extended periods of time. I don’t think any coffee shop will run you off, but you don’t want to be rude. A good rule of thumb is to just ask if you’re in a new coffee shop that you’re unsure of. Go to the counter first thing and ask if it’s okay if you work on your laptop for a little while.
It’s always better to err on the side of caution just out of respect for everyone. It’s possible that you’ll see other people working on their laptops when you walk in. That’s obviously a pretty good sign that it’s acceptable. It still never hurts to ask and the baristas will appreciate the extra measure of consideration.
2. REMEMBER IT’S NOT ACTUALLY YOUR OFFICE
If you’re going to work in any public place, it’s probably best that you plan on working on those things that you can do quietly. There is usually a lot of a noise at a coffee shop, but it’s easy for a louder than average talker or random noises to stand out over the normal hum of that setting. Things like conference calls or long, loud virtual meetings should be reserved for your home office. You don’t have to ignore calls you receive, but if your conversation is going to be loud or long, you should probably take it outside. Coffee shops are great for one-on-one meetings with partners, potential employees, and the like. When I meet with people in coffee shops I just try to keep to a reasonable volume during my conversation.
Also, remember that you aren’t the only person who enjoys working from a coffee shop and it’s not like you’re paying rent for that space. Don’t camp out for an entire eight-hour workday because other people will be coming and going looking for a place to set up.
3. BUY SOMETHING
Coffee shops are businesses. Sure, they are there to serve the community, but they do so in exchange for a profit. That profit comes from you and everyone else who walks through those doors, at least it should. Ordering a free ice water and sitting for hours, working on your laptop or holding meetings is taking advantage of what they the coffee shop offers. Think about how you would feel if someone did the equivalent to that with your business.
Maybe you feel like they can afford it and every once in a while it’s no big deal, but what if a large number of people have that same mentality? How will that business continue to thrive and support people like the freelancers who enjoy using their space? It’s a give and take.
4. USE AS LITTLE SPACE AS POSSIBLE
Again, this isn’t your office. Spreading out and taking up too much of the very valuable real estate in a coffee shop runs off other consumers. Always sit at the smallest table you can find. If you have to sit at a communal table, don’t spread all of your things out like it’s your own dining room table. Pay attention to others around you and be welcoming to those who might need to join you at that table.
5. DON’T PLAY VIDEOS OR MUSIC WITHOUT HEADPHONES
Even if your fellow coffee shop goers are not there to work, no one wants to be forced to listen to what you’re listening to. It’s a tough break to realize you forgot your headphones once you get settled and ready to work in a coffee shop, but sometimes you just have to suck it up out of respect for others. Try keeping an extra set of headphones in your work bag or even in your car, just in case.
6. TRY TO AVOID VISITING DURING PEAK HOURS
If you plan on spending a fair amount of time working in a coffee shop, try visiting during their off peak hours. This will benefit the establishment as well as you and other customers. If you have a flexible schedule as a freelancer then you can choose times that are usually aren’t busy. These times are typically early morning, after lunch, and late afternoon/evening hours. Doing this will probably result in a less distracting and more productive work session for you anyway.
7. CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF
Coffee shops are not full service restaurants. They do not have employees come out to bus tables and clean up after each customer leaves. It is usually common knowledge that you pick up after yourself in a coffee shop. Still, there will probably be times that you have to pick up someone else’s trash from a table and wipe it off before you can sit down. Especially if it has been busy and the baristas haven’t had time to come out and tidy up the place. Respect for the space is important if you’re going to pay $3-6 for a drink and then sit there and work on their free wifi for several hours. So even if you end up having to clean up after a stranger, make sure you don’t leave a mess for the next person or for the baristas.
As working from a coffee shop continues to become a more popular practice, it’s important we all know and follow these unofficial rules. If you work remotely and frequent coffee shops to work, leave us a comment and share your biggest pet peeve with other co-habitants in coffee shops near you!