We live in a new world where working behind a desk or in a cubicle in a regular 9-5 isn’t always the norm. The rise of free agents and freelancers is increasing and most remote workers find their remote office space in their neighborhood coffee shops.
I’ve been working remotely for over two years now. While I have a great home office space, I oftentimes need a rhythm and routine that gets me out of the house. So, most days I opt to work from many of the amazing coffee shops around my neighborhood in Chicago. Over the past couple of years I’ve learned a few things about working from coffee shops and thought I’d share them with you.
1 – Go Local
Nothing beats supporting your local coffee shop. Sure, Starbucks has free Wi-fi and a Gold Card with perks, but there’s something about the locally-owned coffee shops and supporting them that does some good for all of us and for our local economy. Nothing against the chains, but when you’re working for yourself, you appreciate others who are doing the same. PPM shared some of their favorite local coffee shops here.
2 – Leave Fully Charged
Avoid the pain of searching for outlets, make sure you head out for the day with your laptop and other devices fully-charged and ready to go!
3 – Make Friends With (and Tip!) Your Baristas
While you may not have co-workers that you work with face-to-face, your neighborhood baristas may be the only people you interface with on a daily basis, so why not make friends with them? Besides it being the “neighborly” thing to do, befriending your baristas can lead to great conversations, free lattes, introductions to other “regulars,” and many other perks. And, be sure to tip them. I make it a point to have a few dollars in my pocket even though most of my life goes on my debit card. Show your appreciation to them and they’ll give it right back to you.
4 – Be the hero of the day and pack a power strip.
Many wars rage over outlets at coffeeshops, so be the hero and pack a power strip. I travel with a small power strip and cannot tell you how many times it’s saved me from having to asking if I can plug in to an outlet. Instead, share the love with other telecommuters and be a hero.
5 – Read the room and discern how to take calls.
There are many unspoken rules of how to take calls in coffeeshops. I tend to try and read the room to see if other people are taking calls in a coffeeshop, or if they are excusing themselves and going outside to chat with their clients. Read the room and vibe of where you are. And be sure to watch the level and volume of your voice if you use a headset. Don’t be this guy
6 – Wi-Fi… Free or Paid?
The Wi-Fi situation certainly varies according to where you are. Regardless of free or paid, I usually opt for places that are reliable and fast. That being said, the Wi-Fi tends to fall into a few categories…
- Free for all. Unrestricted, reliable Wi-Fi is a dream for telecommuters. It’s the best of both worlds. If you happen upon a coffee shop like this, treasure it, and be sure not to buy one latte and call it a day. I usually try to buy one latte for a block of about 2 hours. It’s only fair, especially if you are at a locally-owned coffee shop.
- Purchase = Wi-Fi. Many other coffee shops give you Wi-Fi code with a purchase and oftentimes it’s for a block of anywhere to 1-2 hours. While that can be annoying at times, I do find that the time restriction helps me focus and get to work on things that matter instead of distracting myself with BuzzFeed articles and funny YouTube videos (although distractions can be helpful throughout the day). If I have a limited amount of time in my day, I certainly try to make it a point to go to places where my wi-fi time is restricted.
- Pay for Wi-Fi. Don’t do it. I can understand a purchase gaining you wifi, but if you are asked to pay for Wi-Fi it’s not worth it unless you want to write it off. The kind of coffee shop that wants you to pay for wi-fi is not a place I want to support.
- No Wi-Fi. There are a number of coffee shops in Chicago popping up that intentionally do not have Wi-Fi. Before you avoid the no Wi-Fi zones or drain your data plan tethering your iPhone, consider this… no Wi-Fi coffee shops provide a great opportunity for you to disconnect and focus. If you need to crank out some writing, need space to organize your thoughts, or an undistracted environment to meet with someone, the no Wi-Fi coffee shops can be a great option.
7 – Change it Up
I have a rotation of about 5-6 coffee shops I frequent in my neighborhood. Each has a different vibe and each offer a unique setting to get work done. Some mornings I’ll go to a coffee shop with limited outlets and Wi-Fi knowing I’ll have a set block of time to get things done. Then, I’ll transition to another that serves lunch and is good for taking calls. I’ve also found the walk or ride between coffee shops and change of scenery helps me stay creative and inspired.
8 – Be willing to look out for others
There tends to be an unspoken rule with telecommuters and coffee shops when it comes to our personal belongings and when we need to excuse ourselves. You know the drill — the time when someone next to you gets a call, either for business or of nature, and needs to leave their laptops and other personal belongings behind. In most cases a simple head nod of agreement is all it takes, but for those few precious seconds you’ve committed to help your fellow neighbor and watch their things. It also means that if anything does happen to their propert you are to blame. Either way, be willing to look out for others and they’ll exchange the favor when you get called away.
These are just a few simple tips I’ve learned over the past couple of years making my “home office” from one of my neighborhood coffee shops. I hope they are helpful for you and if you are a remote worker like me, I’d love to hear some of your tips and pointers, too. Share them below!
This is a guest blog post from our resident blogger, Timothy Aaron.