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Phoenix Forward

7 tips for telecommuting from a coffee shop

Working at a coffee shop

If you’re a road warrior, freelancer or Internet entrepreneur, the local coffee shop isn’t just a place to get a pick-me-up before heading to the office — sometimes, it is your office. But that doesn’t mean you should treat it like one.

When working at a coffee shop, it’s important to observe basic etiquette. You may be there to work, but others use coffee shops to chat with friends, read the newspaper or study.

Follow these seven tips to keep from annoying those around you:


Buy something.

You wouldn’t occupy a table at a restaurant or pub without buying something, so why should you treat a coffee shop differently? Heath Boice-Pardee, EdD, community owner of the PhoenixConnect® academic social network for the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies, says, “Coffee shops are multi-use facilities, but they aren’t offices or libraries.”


Take business calls outside.

It’s not just good manners — it’s professionalism. “Business clients want to be your first priority and don’t want to fight for your attention,” Boice-Pardee says. “If it sounds like there’s a party going on in the background, you risk offending them.”


Use headphones for audio.

Headphones make it easy for you to drown out background noise and concentrate on your work, but Boice-Pardee notes that they also “allow your business to remain your business.” Avoid subjecting your fellow coffee shop patrons to the latest viral video, your MP3 collection or video conference calls, and you’ll also retain your privacy.


Keep your belongings organized.

Leave room for those around you by stashing your personal items in a backpack or messenger bag when not in use. “If you really need to spread out,” Boice-Pardee says, “do it at home.”


Minimize the amount of outlets you use.

You’re not the only one who might need to plug in, and electrical outlets in coffee shops are scarce. Boice-Pardee’s recommendation: Use one outlet for your laptop and charge your other devices at home or via USB cables.


Clean up after yourself.

During peak hours, baristas have little time to wipe up tables. Help out coffee shop employees by throwing away your trash when you leave. “Act as if you’re representing your company,” Boice-Pardee says, “and the coffee table is your desk.”


Take a small table.

When you’re alone, don’t sit at a table meant for four or more people. “Sit at a small table near a window or by the restrooms,” Boice-Pardee encourages. “Though you play an important role in coffee shop culture, you don’t own the place.”

Interested in furthering your education?