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Across the world, coffee shops with free wifi and great caffeination options have become great workplace options for everyone from students to freelancers to startup founders.

I’ve worked from tons upon tons of them in almost every city I’ve traveled to, and I’m constantly getting better at finding ones I like. And I know a lot more about picking them out now than I have in the past. If you’re making the jump to working from cafes, read this to save yourself a little trouble.

Get Connected

Wifi has to be (1) free, or reasonably priced (2) reasonably fast (3) CONSISTENT. And #3 is the hardest to gauge. You can get a feel for it by asking the people around you, but you basically have to take a gamble the first time you work from a particular coffee shop. The last thing you want is to be in the middle of an important email / code push / blog post / etc, and the wifi gives out.

If you’re like me, you’ll use cloud tools like Evernote and Dropbox so your work is often saved almost automatically. But if you’re operating strictly online (like when updating a WordPress post, for example), and the wifi drops, you might get screwed. Save early and often.

Feel the Power

Not all cafes have outlets available, so when you scout them out be sure to do a quick walk around and look at the floor for outlets. I don’t need to tell you that without power, you’ll only have a few hours of work if you’re lucky.

I also recommend investing in a portable charger – see my post, 10 Tools for Getting Sh*t Done in Coffee Shops.

Cards on the Table

Many cafes have small, two-person-maximum tables. A few rare and awesome ones have large communal tables (gems like Ace Hotel and Vineapple in NYC). Lots of elbow room is a big help

Also if you use an external mouse like I do, and you end up on a table that has a glass or otherwise shiny surface, the mouse won’t work properly. So keep an eye out for large non-reflective tables.

Down and Dirty: Bathrooms

If you’re spending a whole day at someplace, and ordering coffee, you’re gonna need the bathroom…multiple times. And not all are created equal, na’mean? Look for the clean ones.

Bring tha Noise: Ambience

I always have some good headphones with me, so I can get stuff done with a moderately noisy place. But if I have to make a phone call or do a google hangout with someone, it’s nice not to be sitting right next to the barista while a latte is being churned out at high volume.

Look for places that have a sitting area that is fairly distant from the main counter, preferably in a separate room.

People Power

The Dunkin Donuts in the city’s main train station might have free wifi, but people generally don’t go there to work or study. In that vein, not all cafes are suited to getting stuff done.

Look for places where people have their laptops out, firstly since some places discourage them altogether. Pay attention to how frequently people come and go. If it tends to be a good working environment, people will stay a long time – meaning it’s easier to meet people who might watch your stuff for you. If it’s high-traffic starbucks

Burning the Midnight Oil

I’m more or less a person who likes to work in the daytime, so I never have a problem with cafes being open when I start working. But I’ve often gotten kicked out of places that close early on weekdays.

I also realize that a lot of people prefer working well into the evening. If that sounds like you, make sure you check out a cafe’s hours online before hitting it up (Yelp FTW).

Seeing the Light

Some people like using their laptop in the dark – personally, that makes me feel woozy. I need a well-lit room to work. Whatever your preference, look for places whose lighting suits you.

Feeding the Beast

A coder’s gotta eat, right? Many places that are primarily coffee establishments don’t have tons in the way of selection, so keep that in mind. If you can find one that has more than pastries and grilled cheese, you’re in luck. As a backup plan, make note of a few nearby places for quick eats, and get skilled in the art of packing your stuff up quickly.

What are your thoughts on this? Leave a reply.

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