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Remote Work

How We Approach And Support Coffee Shop Working

Working at Buffer takes many forms.

For some, it’s working from home (sometimes surrounded by kids and/or animals), from a coworking space or co-living space or perhaps it’s from a coffee shop.

(Psst – we just did a big ol’ survey of more than a thousand remote workers to learn more about these trends in our 2018 State of Remote Work!)

When it comes to supporting our teammates, it’s a part of our company values to live and work where you’re happiest and most productive. That means we help financially cover the cost of coworking spaces if that is the best scenario for our employee.

In 2018, we added another dimension to our coworking benefit — up to $200 per month of reimbursement for beverages or snacks purchased to “co-work” from a coffee shop. This led us to a path of exploring how we view working from coffee shops and what is the proper mindset and etiquette for remote workers.

Coffee Shop Coworking: Benefits and Considerations

There are studies that point to the benefits of working from a coffee shop: the general change in scenery from your home or office, the energetic or social atmosphere and of course, the ready access to caffeine. For some workers, the ambient noise really helps them get into a zone. (There is even an app that emulates the noise from coffee shops to create the distinctive background noise if you’re not physically in one!)

The New York Times recently published an article on the trend to dissuade or embrace remote workers and brought up several items we discussed as a remote workforce. Many coffee shops are addressing this in different ways; encouraging no-laptop zones or hours, or disabling Wifi.

We’ve heard from many of our teammates that this is a global trend and many of the etiquette guidelines apply across all cultures!

Tips from our Teammates

With our 70 teammates across the globe, all with a variety of different work preferences and experience, we asked them what were the sort of “rules” or norms they observed when it came to coffee shop working.

Here are some of the tips they advised!

Research Before You Work There 

“Try to stick to places that I know welcome workers…There’s also a great app called Workfrom that lets you scope out places, and the owners of cafes can mark in the app whether or not they welcome coworkers which is really nice.” – Emily

“I usually try to do research on cafés I’d like to go online – Workfrom, Twitter, Google Maps to find indication whether co-working is welcomed. Google Map photos that show many people with laptops and seats with power sockets have been great indications, and its ‘Popular times’ feature could be helpful to only work at the cafés during their less-busy time. (You sometimes find a gem like this café owner in Paris who has developed an entire philosophy and strategy around this.)” – Juliet

“There are coffee shops that I just know don’t want people in there with laptops (sometimes they even have signs) so I stick to the few I know are friendly. “ – Hailley

“It may sound weird, but as a coffee shop worker myself I wouldn’t want to see my favorite coffee shops become crowded with laptops only; I go to coffee shops for their atmosphere, when I’m there I want people chatting around, laughing, having coffee with their friends… Which is one of the reasons I’m mindful of that too.” – Pioul

“Coffee shops that double as restaurants have a different turnover than a coffee shop would and might be best avoided during breakfast/lunch/dinner hours to leave tables open for their peak service.” – Daniel

Make Regular Purchases 

“I have to admit, it’s really obvious when someone is a coffee shop lurker and the baristas know too. It’s important to keep grabbing something from the shop to pay for the seat your sitting in.” – Daniel

“So usually I’ll start with a latte and then go back up after an hour and get a pastry or something to justify another hour. I spend about two hours per coffee shop and then switch it up and go somewhere else.” – Hailley

Be Friendly

“If you’re a regular at a place, don’t be a stranger! Introducing yourself to the humans working at a place can have a huge impact on your day-to-day at a coffee shop.” – Daniel

“I also try to become friends with the baristas and always tip well! It’s nice to work from a place where you feel like you know the people working.” – Emily

“When possible, I sit with groups. Tables with 2 seats on them might be best used by groups of people or people out for conversation. If I’m alone, I’ll take advantage of community tables or invite others to share a table.” – Daniel

Don’t Camp Out Too Long

“I’m also in the one-coffee-per-hour camp. Plus I try not to take up a table around lunch time either. And always being willing to share or move as needed.” – Colin

“I tend to try to avoid small shops unless I know it well and know how busy it gets. If a place has only 2–3 tables, or seating for ~5–10 people, sitting in a chair for hours might hurt a places business.” – Daniel

“I love finding less-known cafés that aren’t located on main streets as they tend to need more business during work hours, and I generally follow 1-item-per-hour rule as well.” – Juliet

“Google’s business indicator is good for knowing when a place might be busy, otherwise earlier in the day during the week (and avoiding lunch hour) is a good rule of thumb!” – Pioul

Be Mindful Of  Your Volume

“Some headphones these days are pretty rad at stopping noise from coming in. This can also lead to talking extra loud on calls. I sometimes keep one headphone out of my ear on calls to help gauge if I’m the only one yelling in a coffee shop (which has happened a few too many times.” –Daniel

Tip Well

“If you live in a region where tipping is done, tip your barista! They are the incredible humans who make our coffee shop working possible and commute at the wee hours of the morning to help energize our days.” – Daniel

Over to You

Do you work at coffee shops? If so, what are some of your best practices?


Photo by Nafinia Putra

  • Love these tips! I don’t work remote (yet!) but when I do work from coffee shops, I usually only stay there for 2-3 hours, just because that’s about as long as my attention span can handle it! I didn’t even think about some of these tips, like buying a coffee, then later buying a pastry to “pay” for your spot. Once I become a regular at a coffee shop, I’ll definitely make sure to use these tips! For me, coffee shops help my “extravert” side – meaning, I need to get out of the house and be around people to feel energized and motivated to work. However, I’m still not being interrupted like I would be at the office. Plus coffee ☕️ It’s a win-win!

    • Oh, I love how you use coffee shops to create those win-win situations, @jessiedeschane:disqus! That’s such a neat way to go about things. Once you become a remote worker you’ll already have a flow in place! :)

  • Thank you for this article! As someone who was a barista in the past, I appreciate the points you made. Being on the other end of the situation as a remote worker now, I always make sure to be respectful of the coffee shop’s time, resources, and space. I’ve actually had conversations with remote working friends about this very topic!

    One tip I’d add is to make a purchase before setting up your equipment/putting your bag in a spot or at a table. There may be customers in front of you who could use this space. :) Also, learn the names of the baristas! If you’re a regular, they definitely know your name. Return the favor!

    • These are great tips, thanks for sharing, @annemercer:disqus!

  • Paige Peabody

    Great tips! I worked at coffee shops non-stop when writing my thesis and absolutely LOVED the bustle, they can be so inspiring. It is so important to remember that the space giving you inspiration (and caffeine and snacks) deserves a little love back from the patrons.

    I always loved making connections with the baristas and sharing tables with other people working. Hopefully I can get back into the remote/coffee shop work style soon!

    • Thank you so much for giving this one a read, @paigepeabody:disqus! So well said about giving love back to the spaces we use. :)

  • As a fellow coffee shop worker, I love this. It’s great that you included the importance of buying things regularly. Sometimes, I sit and watch other people working and can’t believe how they can go for 3+ hours on the same drink! You can’t go wrong with the one coffee per hour rule — it shows you respect their business, which is huge if they’re an independent store.

    • Thanks for reading and leaving your thoughts, @elisedopsoncouk:disqus! So happy the one drink per hour rule resonates with you. :)

  • Megan Coyle

    Hi! Our team does the same thing — we offer a lump sum each month to each team member to pay for a coworking space, coffee, better home internet, etc. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing how you do this logistically. Your team submits receipts, but what app do you use? Does it create a bookkeeping nightmare? Thanks so much for your insight!

    • Hi @meganmcoyle:disqus! Great one. :) Our team submits receipts through Expensify once a month and one of our Operations teammates goes through to review and send reimbursements. Let me know if I can answer any other questions on this. :)

  • Matt Coombs

    Great ideas to respect their business! I have my go-to coffee shop and I will sometimes stay for the lunch hour and buy lunch from them too. That occasional more expensive purchase is a small way to thank them for hosting me.

    • I love that! Thanks for sharing, @disqus_uko1zg7TWp:disqus! :)

  • ERIC Santillan

    I work from a dedicated desk in a coworking space now, but actually find myself going back to coffeeshops every now and then for its sights and sounds. Thanks for the tips here. I also follow the one item-per hour rule, and try to mix it up so I don’t become too much of a desk hog.

    • The sights and sounds are definitely the a big pro of working from coffee shops! :) Thanks for reading and sharing, @ericsantillan:disqus!

  • Sit at the smallest table you can possibly fit your laptop on, If you go into a crowded cafe by yourself and take up a four seat table or a booth when there’s a perfectly good two seat tabletop or a seat at the bar available, you’re being a tool.

    • That small table tip is really great! Thanks for sharing, @Magnus919:disqus. :)

  • I love working from coffee shops!
    My main suggestion is to share! At coffee shops a power source is usually hard to find and it’s kinda tough when one person camps out in front of it for hours and hours. So I keep a power strip in my bag and place it in an easy to reach area in case anyone else needs some juice too.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, @iSocialTish:disqus! :) I LOVE the idea of the power strip, that’s a great way to be a good coffee chop coworker.

  • Coffee shops are great places to work!

  • Naomi Salpeter

    Hi all! Question to all coffee shop laptop workers:
    Would you consider paying pay a monthly subscription for the option of working in different coffee spaces and get free coffee, tea, wifi and unlimited use of the facilities? If yes- how much would you be willing to pay? If no- why?
    Thank you!

  • Marina Nassif

    Coffee-shop worker all the way! Some have spotty internet, so it can be tricky to find a good go-to spot. I think I would invest in a personal hotspot service. Does anybody have any insight or advice to share on such devices?

  • Raymond Jarnagin

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. This is something!

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