Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur growing a startup or you run a more established company, it’s almost a certainty that at some point you’ve worked from a coffee shop. In 2016, cafes are the new libraries; not only do most roasteries house a fantastic, balanced working environment perfect for those operating businesses from a laptop and a smartphone, but almost all of them provide free wifi and outlets - oh and coffee, too.
Although it’s become extremely commonplace to set up in a cafe for hours on end, there’s a clear yet unspoken etiquette that needs to be followed for this wonderful and uniquely millennial situation to continue sans issues. Here are some tips to keep the balance between being a welcome guest and just being plain rude.
1. Don't overstay your welcome.
Understand that first and foremost, the owners are running a business which is not primarily your private workspace - and this is the most commonly broken rule of cafe etiquette. We discussed this with Frank Letendre-Joachim, the owner of the newly opened Shaughnessy Cafe in Montreal, and the general rule of thumb is to come in with a fully charged computer/phone/tablet, purchase a drink and some food, and work until your battery dies. This way, you get your fair share of work time without taking a seat away from another paying customer.
2. Always buy something.
This one should be pretty obvious, but we’ve heard stories of people walking into cafes, asking for a cup of hot water for the tea bags they brought in with them, and then sitting on their laptop for hours on end. Crazy stuff. Etiquette would suggest that, depending on the size of the cafe, how busy it is and how many seats/outlets are available, you should purchase a drink every 2 to 3 hours. If you’re there over the lunch rush, definitely purchase some food as well.
3. Be respectful.
Have you ever walked into a cafe and it was so quiet you were scared to talk out loud? We’ve spoken to many frustrated owners who, in a move to maintain the vibe of their establishment, put a ban on laptops over the weekends. This way it doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a library, which is the whole reason you’re at a cafe and not a book depository in the first place. On the flipside, keep business conversations to a reasonable volume. Don’t schedule loud Skype sessions (especially without headphones) or phone calls that would clearly interrupt other customers. It’s similar to driving with the speed of the traffic around you; talk at a volume that goes with the ambiance of the cafe, not above it.
4. Be socially aware.
As the saying goes, common sense isn’t often all that common. Choose a cafe that welcomes workers and students, not one that clearly isn’t built for that clientele. We’ve all seen the Instagrammed chalkboard signs of cafes specifically noting that they don’t have wifi encouraging conversations rather than work - those aren’t the places for you, my friend. When you find the right cafe that’s suitable for your needs, pick a spot where you aren’t taking up too much space and you won’t be bothering other customers with your typing and/or quiet phone calls. And don’t leave your bags over the seat next to you - keep your stuff on the floor or under your table out of the way. The last thing you want is annoyed baristas asking you to clear a seat your laptop bag has been hogging for hours on end. A bit of courtesy goes a long way.
5. Become a local.
The easiest way to truly get the most out of working from a cafe is to become a regular, and even better, make friends with the baristas and the owner(s). Frequent a cafe that suits your needs; tip the baristas well so any accidental annoyance you may cause will be overlooked; indulge them in conversation so they know you’re a human with goals and aspirations and not just a dirty seat hog; clean up after yourself (don’t leave dirty cups and dishes on your table after you leave); don’t slow the wifi by downloading large files; don’t monopolize the power outlets (see point 1); and just make yourself a friendly face who contributes to the ambiance.
If everybody followed all these steps, we’d have a wonderful world full of awesome cafe offices that we all can enjoy.