Ever since I started freelancing full-time in 2008, I’ve been regularly working from coffices (coffee shop used as an office). Leaving the corporate world behind and being tired of commuting for 3 hours a day, I was finally able to adjust my daily schedule, find out when I’m most productive during the day and establish a model that keeps my efficiency up and running.
Why a Coffice?
You’ve probably seen people sitting in a coffee shop in your city with their laptops and tablets or even conducting meetings. While some of them may be chilling out and taking some time off, the community of remote workers at coffee shops has been constantly growing.
I’ve elaborated on the numerous creativity benefits of coffice work in my previous Coffice post and Coffice guide. This article offers some further tips on working out of the office.
Whether it be...
- at home
- from a coffice
- at the local library
- from a co-working space
Let’s dive into the guide.
1. Learn Your Coffice
Spending some time at a coffice, you’ll identify a number of patterns for that same place. For instance, you’ll recognize other regular coffice workers and learn their working habits. Some do morning development work, others do business meetings at 3pm twice a week.
One important thing to be aware of is when your coffice gets crowded. I’ve been in hundreds of coffices and most of them are predictable in terms of peak hours. Some coffee shops are busy around 8am in the morning with the daily traffic of office workers stopping by for a cup of coffee. Others are packed up at 2pm right after the lunch hours at the local restaurant. Some tend to be quiet in the evening, others are a convenient place for people to meet and avoid heavy traffic before heading back home.
Learning about your coffice's peak times will let you plan your schedule and trips without unexpected interruptions.
2. Get Your Equipment Ready
If you want to be productive and efficient at your coffice, gear up.
Depending on your agenda, you need to replicate the comfortable office setup as much as possible, including (but not limited to):
- Wireless mouse (or keyboard)
- Extra laptop battery (or power bank)
- 3G dongle
- Notebooks & writing pads
A senior cofficer carries a bag that would turn every table into a modern desk. Even if you’re trying out the seasoned coffice model, make sure that your stay does not limit your productivity in any way.
Find out where are the power sockets and the WiFi router located as well. Looking at the battery icon every few minutes is an annoying distraction, and the closer to the modem you are, the better your signal will be.
If you’re addicted to a second monitor and have lost the habit of using a writing pad, I strongly suggest you to give it a shot as well. With all the popups, IM notifications and incoming email every single minute, it’s helpful for you detach from the Internet for a bit and start sketching and planning on a piece of paper.
Moreover, you can take your pad with you and sit outside at the park brainstorming for 30 minutes before heading back. There's a well-known productivity hack that also suggests organizing meetings with clients while walking around the nearest park instead of sitting at a crowded cafe or a busy office.
3. Stay Safe Online!
Online security is essential for you and your business. Being unable to protect your websites, email, social media accounts and your entire business communication could lead to compromised data, lost opportunities, stolen sensitive details (including credit card or social security number) and even a lawsuit due to leaked company data.
Using an open wireless network is one of the easiest ways to get caught, especially if you browse outside of a VPN. An experiment by hidemyass.com - one of the popular secure Virtual Private Networks providers - proved that a seven-year-old can hack a public WiFi in less than 11 minutes. Speaking from experience, sniffing the regular traffic at an open WiFi network is extremely easy, so use them at your risk.
While this is less likely to happen at the office or home, it’s not exclusive to your coffice. You’re probably using public WiFi networks at the local restaurant, at the airport, in the bus or the shopping center. There are three basic things that you could do in order to keep your data safe:
- Use a VPN. If you’re a tech person, you could set up OpenVPN at home or a server you own, or subscribe for one of the various VPN service providers out there. Since security is a major concern in that field, most of them provide different security protocols and use reliable encryption algorithms in order to keep you safe. Some vendors claim that they don’t keep any logs on their servers so tracking your actions is theoretically impossible (hint: nothing is impossible).
- Use a separate Internet provider. It’s all a matter of trust here, but if you trust your cell phone carrier with your calls and messages (and browsing your email), you may as well tether to your computer. Using one network everywhere could be a safer bet for your data. Also, signing up for data plans with other providers would let you browse at places where your carrier has no cell coverage.
- Use remote desktop or ssh to your server. Controlling an external environment is similar to using a VPN, but all of your data is on the remote machine. As long as you connect safely there, you’re good to go and keep your data at one place.
Keep in mind that all of the above hides risks. It’s also a matter of trust - your data is already available for different vendors such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, your ISP or somewhere else, so think carefully before you sign up for a service and share your data with a third party.
4. Control Your Productivity
The act of working from coffices itself is a productivity booster, based on several different studies.
The coffice is a different environment than your home or office, which can generate different ideas. Ambient noise around 70 dB is also known to enhance performance and support innovation. Services such as Coffitivity emerged so that office and home workers can reproduce that environment and stay focused longer. The best part - no one will likely interrupt you at the coffice, unlike your family at home or colleagues at the office.
In addition to that, you can try different things and see if they help you work and perform better:
- Bring a headset and a music collection with different genres. Every now and then a coffice gets crowded and you can easily get distracted. Put your headset on and try different music genres for your different tasks. I’m personally productive with house/trance music when I need to brainstorm and be creative, and alternative/thrash metal if I have a long list of tasks and just need to complete them in two or three hours.
- Plan your tasks in a way that fits in your Coffice schedule. If you’re planning to stay for 2 or 3 hours at your coffice, plan 2h worth of work accordingly. It would motivate you to complete your tasks and enjoy the last few minutes of your coffee before heading out.
- Organize a meeting or two at your coffice - a coffee shop is a neutral territory for both parties which creates a safe environment and isolates you from the distractions at the office and people interrupting you for a question or a meeting reminder. You will also be able to do some work prior to your meeting or prep a few more things even if your client is late.
- Measure your productivity times and plan your coffice timing accordingly. Try to increase your productive hours by heading to the office early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
5. Try Different Coffices And Tables
Hitting the same coffice every single day may lessen the productivity benefits of your new work model. In order to keep your efficiency and motivation in tact, you can visit different coffices. Pick three or four places around you and try them out, then visit a different coffice every two or three days adding some variety to your weekly or monthly coffice agenda.
Also, try working from different tables in your coffee shop. Most coffices combine different sets of chairs and tables, so you can test sofas vs. regular chairs, central table vs. a corner one, and sit in the light hall near a window or a darker seat near the wall. People have different preferences when it comes to light, temperature and humidity, so find out what works best for you.
6. Respect The Others
- Keep in mind that you’re not alone at your coffice, and respect the people around you.
If your coffice gets crowded at lunch and you’ve been staying there for a couple hours, consider packing up, taking a quick walk or grabbing some lunch. You can get some fresh air and head back to the same coffice later, try another one or get back home.
- Use a headset if you’re in a Skype call. Not only should people not have to listen to your colleagues online, but you won’t have to shout, having your mic right next to your mouth.
Refill if you’re staying longer. Spending 4 hours or more with a single cup of coffee will not rank you for the “best customer” chart. Be respectful to the other people looking for a table and your baristas and order a sandwich or a second coffee.
- Don’t occupy a table for 4 or 5 people if you’re working alone.
- If there is a single power socket near you and several people with notebooks, try not to use it all for yourself for your entire stay. People would love you if you had a plug adaptor that allowed for 3 or more people to plug in simultaneously!
- Always be polite and friendly - be an exemplary Cofficer.
Check out WorkSnug's Coffee Shop Code of Conduct for more information on coffice ettiquette.