A friend asked me about the proper etiquette for working from a cafe. She had a recent incident in which she visited a chain coffee shop because there was loud construction happening near her home and she needed to get some work done. She made a point to order something every hour, but when she finally asked for the bill, the manager muttered something about her being a nuisance under his breath.
I think that’s bad etiquette on the manager’s part; a customer is a customer, and she certainly wasn’t freeloading. However, I think those who work from cafes should be mindful of a few things:
-Remember that this isn’t your office. Hogging large tables so you can spread out your work, or dangling a computer cord that blocks other customers’ way is selfish. Don’t put your phone on speaker to take a call, or play loud videos. Bring headphones, and make other arrangements if you need to take an important call.
-Keep an eye on crowds. As a customer, it generally makes no difference to me whether the person next to me is tapping away on a laptop or reading a book. But if I’m waiting for a table and see a crowd of laptops, with no food or drink being imbibed, I get frustrated. Cafes depend on a nice flow of traffic, so commandeering an area for hours on end can be considered annoying. If you notice a wait, consider this a good opportunity to wrap up your work and take a break.
-Order! Sipping the same large coffee for two hours doesn’t cut it. I know some coffee shops require patrons to buy something once an hour in order to receive a wifi code. Don’t bring your own food or drink from home. This is a business, not a public park.
-Tip. If you have a server, be mindful that you’re taking up their section and that they won’t be able to turn over tables (and get more tips) because of it. You could always say, “I’m going to need this table for a couple of hours, but I’ll be sure to order plenty and leave you something extra.” I would say a minimum of 20% would be appropriate. If there’s no server, put something in the tip jar.
-Be courteous. This isn’t a library. You can’t be angry if the people chatting over lattes nearby are distracting you from your work. Don’t snap at the server for interrupting your work.
And if you can’t abide by these rules, maybe it’s best to stick to a home office or co-working space.