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How to Work from a Coffee Shop without Being an Asshole

Woman working at a coffee shop with her laptop and books spread out over the table.
Katsiaryna Pakhomava/Shutterstock

If you’ve ever tried to work from a coffee shop, you’ve likely encountered a coffee shop asshole. While you can’t change them, you can follow some basic rules to make sure people aren’t thinking the same thing about you.

Coffee shop assholes come in all sizes and shapes, but they share one common characteristic: they make patronage of that coffee shop miserable for absolutely everyone else around them. To avoid being the jerk that everyone around you is quietly texting their friends about, read on.

Limit Your Outlet Usage

First things first: don’t be an outlet hog. If you’re working from a coffee shop, you should use a max of one outlet at a time. There’s nothing worse than someone who plugs in their laptop, their phone, their iPad, and their AirPods.

Respect others’ charging needs: plug in one of your electronics at a time. If a few are low on battery, connect them to the USB port on your laptop. If you really do need to plug in more than one thing, keep a travel-size power strip in your laptop bag—or plan your day better!

Control Your Spread

A coffee shop is a place for many people to gather, meet, and work. It’s not your personal office.

In most coffee shops, space is at a premium. That means you need to control your work spread.

There’s nothing worse than trying to share a space with someone who has laid out ten folders, an iPad, a laptop, and their breakfast. Keep your work contained and orderly in your immediate vicinity. Nothing should be more than an arm’s reach away (if that).

Take Your Calls Outside

Now, this might be controversial, but I posit that if you’re taking a video or phone call that will last more than 10 minutes with you doing more than 25% of the talking, you should take that call outside.

Basically, it’s fine to sit and listen to a work call, but if you’re leading a presentation, it’s probably better to take the call outside or find a space of your own to speak.

Respect the vibes of the coffee shop and take your calls outside. Your fellow patrons and whoever’s on the other end of the call will thank you. Because let’s be real, there’s never really an appropriate time to talk on the phone in a coffee shop.

Buy Stuff and Tip Your Servers

It should go without saying, but hey, we are talking about coffee shop assholes here. Buy stuff while you’re at the coffee shop. It’s a business that serves, you know, coffee and food. It’s not a coworking space that you pay rent for, so pay your “rent” by ordering sufficient drinks and food to make it worth you sitting in the window all day working on your TPS reports.

This should also go without saying: treat the people who work at the coffee shop well. Say please and thank you when you’re ordering and make sure to tip. After all, they aren’t just making your food and drinks—they’re acting as your hosts in your work away from work experience.

Hayley Milliman Hayley Milliman
Hayley is a former Teach for America teacher turned curriculum developer and writer. Over the past five years, she's written hundreds of articles on everything from education to personal finance to history. She's co-author of the book Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females. Read Full Bio »

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