Remote Work and Coffee Shops

When I tell people that I work remotely they often ask me what working from home is like, assuming that remote work means a home office to work from. Unfortunately, I have to disappoint them with the fact that I very seldom actually work from my home for any real length of time. My preferred environment is a coffee shop – the background buzz of other patrons works very well for me and I enjoy the more social environment.

Of course, a coffee shop environment isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you do choose it then here are a few tips that I’ve learnt from my experience of doing this for the past few years.

Do your recon

There’s nothing worse than sitting down at a coffee shop and ordering a coffee, only to find out that their available internet connection is too slow, expensive or broken for you to get any meaningful amount of work done.

When you arrive at a new coffee shop, do some initial recon: Check the internet connection (is it metered or limited in any way? Is it fast enough?), locate the power points (how many are there? Are they easy to access?), check for a quieter spot if you have any meetings, find a comfortable seat, and make sure the environment isn’t going to distract you in any real way.

You may have some other requirements too, so make sure those are all satisfied before you commit to a place.

Be comfortable

This may seem obvious, but it’s very important. With a home office, you can pick your own chair, desk and everything else. At a coffee shop, you’re limited to the options provided, which are frequently more suited to casual sitting rather than an ergonomic working environment. Bear that in mind and try to find a seating arrangement that is comfortable and doesn’t damage your back.

Relocate occasionally

One of the greatest benefits of this kind of thing is that you can select your own working environment, and there’s no reason why you have to be in the same place all day. Don’t be afraid to relocate to a different coffee shop at some point in the day – I find the change of scenery can really help me focus.

For me, the natural break in my day is often going to collect my daughter from school, and dropping her home. After that, I will head to a different coffee shop and settle down there for the afternoon.

Get to know your ‘colleagues’

Once you’ve been working in a coffee shop environment for a while, you’ll start to notice others doing the same as you in the same places. I consider these folks my colleagues and acknowledge them whenever we end up in the same place. Sometimes we chat for a while and sometimes it’s just a nod hello, but in the absence of a ‘regular’ office, it’s good to have people around with whom you can connect to some degree.

Become a local

It’s good to move around to different places, but it’s also handy to become a ‘local’ at one or two places – when the staff get to know you, it creates a more friendly working environment. It also has added benefits like speeding your order up when you first sit down (most places I go to know to get me a red cappuccino as soon as I arrive), knowing where the best seats are, connecting to the internet quickly, and knowing where the power points are.

You may be working in a different place each day, but there’s no reason why it can’t feel as familiar as an office environment.

Don’t over-indulge

When your consumption at a coffee shop is covered for you (by your company, a client, or anyone else) it can be easy to occasionally eat a bit more than necessary. After all, those freshly-baked muffins aren’t going to eat themselves. In the interest of your long term health and happiness, it’s important to resist that temptation and maintain a normal diet – a healthy lifestyle regardless of where you work will do wonders for your productivity, concentration, and general well-being.

Only take what you need

When working from a coffee shop you’re going to be more limited in what hardware you can take with you – that external monitor needs to stay at home! The general rule of thumb is to only take what you need – that way your load will be lighter and setting up at a new place will be a lot quicker.

Do you really need that ergonomic mouse, or is your laptop trackpad just fine? Will you only be there for an hour or two? Maybe leave that bulky power adaptor at home. Taking your minimum required hardware along will make things a lot simpler to manage.


Those are my tips for coffee shop working – can you relate to any of that? Does it make you want to start working in a similar environment? Do you have any additional advice?

5 Thoughts

  1. I find it harder to work on problem solving and programming when I’m at a coffee shop, I need to be able to stand up and pace to think sometimes, or stare at the failed tests and swear at my screen ;-). I find working at coffee shops the most productive when I’m doing things like writing (articles/documentation) or support, but not programming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hugh, I hope you can help me out. We have a WordPress site, http://www.novelbookcamp.com, which was administered by my friend Phil Martin. Phil died in March and I am unfamiliar with accessing the site so we can update it. I’m not even sure if the novelbookcamp site is even active. I suspect it may have been shut down with Phil’s other business sites. The Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat is a nonprofit educational organization that offers an annual writing workshop and an annual writing retreat. It is important that we access the site to update it so we can start promoting our 2020 programs. If you could assist me in any way–tell me what I need to do to become the administrator or direct me to someone or site that can provide such assistance, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

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