Many of my fellow work-from-home friends and colleagues spend an inordinate amount of time working in cafes. At least, judging by the number of people I see with laptops whenever I’m in a cafe. Which is at least 3-4 times a week.

A guide to working in a cafe

There is a cafe etiquette that really should be followed if you want to keep the cafe owner and your fellow coffee drinkers on side.

The unwritten rules of cafe etiquette

  • My general rule of thumb is one coffee or other drink per hour or so. Which is a pretty cheap way of accessing a work space, free wifi, air-conditioning (and heating – hello Brisbane winter in a house designed for summer) and often a comfy couch. Although a comfy couch is more likely to induce a quick nap…
  • I tend to visit mid-morning, after the breakfast rush and before lunch starts. If you are going to be at your local cafe over a meal time, then order a meal. NEVER take your own food. That’s just rude.
  • DO NOT TALK LOUDLY ON YOUR PHONE – OK so I type this after I just took a quick phone call (waves to Jen). But I spoke softly and got off the phone as quickly as I could. Don’t be that person who has a loud hour long conversation – and I’m always surprised at how many do. Not only is it rude, but if it’s with a client you could be in breach of your confidentiality agreement.
  • Put your phone on silent and if you are listening to audio on ANYTHING please, please, please use earbuds and don’t blast the volume. Trust me, no one else wants to hear the doof doof.
  • If you need to pee, most cafe staff are happy to keep an eye on your stuff for a few minutes. But be quick about it, and take your wallet with you. Stuff can still get nicked, especially if it’s a busy cafe. Even the most well-meaning barista can’t look everywhere at once, and let’s face it, a paying customer is more important to them than keeping an eye on your belongings. Years ago I worked in a top hotel restaurant and it still horrifies me how many women had stuff nicked out of their handbags they left at the table while they went to the buffet.
  • Don’t abuse the free wifi. It’s not there for you to download the torrent from last night’s Game of Thrones or to watch endless Facebook live streams.
  • Be aware of what’s on your screen. This means no porn or nudity, no violence and be aware of work confidentiality. It’s human nature to sneak a peek at what people are working on. Or is that just me?
  • Be patient – cafes can get busy and sometimes it takes a while for coffee to get to you – don’t abuse the staff if you have to wait, or if you get the wrong order
  • Remember your manners. It’s really not that hard to say please and thank you. So say it often.
  • Be friendly – have a chat with the barista while they make your coffee. Especially if it’s not too busy. Try not to hit on them. Or if you must, then wait until it’s just the two of you.
  • Clean up after yourself. Take your dirty cup to the dish area. Make it easier for the staff to bus your table.
  • Consider how much space you need – do you really need to spread out over a 4-top? Or will a table for two suit you? Keep your stuff within your personal space. Put your bag on the floor rather than another chair (OK, so I need to take my own advice with this one…)
  • Leave your pet at home. While I haven’t seen too many people take their pets to cafes in Australia, it’s a thing in other parts of the world (hello USA and France). I still can’t get over the guy who took his pooch on my flight from San Diego to LA earlier this year!

cafe etiquette

  • Don’t sing along (loudly) to the music – yes, I know it’s tempting when a great song comes on. But please try and resist. You’re not on Carpool Karaoke.
  • If you need to use a power outlet to plug in a device, make sure the cords don’t become trip hazards.

As I work from home, I also often use cafes as a meeting place. Clients really don’t need to see my messy kitchen with last night’s dinner dishes. A few things to consider when using a cafe as a meeting place:

  • everyone order something – at least to drink and if you are there at meal time, order food
  • if you are going to have a meeting with more than four people, see if you can book a room or a space in the corner out of the way
  • try and keep the volume down – no loud arguments
  • try not to play any audio on your laptop.

Do you work from a cafe? What are your top tips? What’s the most annoying thing you have seen someone do??

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