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Working in coffeeshops

Ole Michaelis's profile picture Ole Michaelis on

Here at DNSimple we've written a lot about remote working; but when I joined I had no experience with that at all. I really wanted to see how I work best when not in a traditional office environment—I was sure I would need a co-working space. That is why—from my first month on—I worked from a space close to my home. (Spoiler: I do work from home now, but that will be another post)

I also worked a lot from coffee shops in the past. Especially when I was traveling, coffeeshops always worked out great. Lots of my side projects came to life in a great shop in San Francisco but why limit this only when traveling when I know I'm productive working in that environment? I enjoy the little background noises, the smell, and other people working productively; but also the fact that the folks next to me may be doing something completely different. Last but not least, I love good coffee!

I wanted to give it a spin. Working only in coffeeshops for an entire working day in my hometown (Hamburg, Germany) while not traveling. Here are some tips I learned not only that day, but also all the following days where I spent more time in coffeeshops. No matter if you want to give up your office or only want to try working in a coffee shop.

Tip 1: Make sure there is WIFI

When I started, I asked on twitter for the best coffee shops to work at in my hometown. I got a handful of great recommendations but maybe I did not emphasize the working aspect enough, because the second place I went into did not provide free wifi. It was a really really hip place, but I had a coffee and did not get any work done besides reading some twitter.

Tip 2: Make friends with the staff

Usually Foursquare is a great tool to answer the wifi question and also to filter based on your other needs and well… location. Once you've found a place does not mean that you have access to the WIFI. Again Foursquare helps a ton here because often people post the WIFI password there. My preferred solution to that problem is talking to people. When you order your first drink ask for it straight away. Having a good relationship with the staff is important so give a good tip. I usually give 40%-50% on the first visit. That really helps get a good start with the people working there.

Tip 3: Switch places every once in a while

One of my favorite wifi passwords was: 20minutespercoffee. If you live in Hamburg and you know this place, you will find me working there quite often. However no matter how nice you are with the staff, or how many coffees you drink, at some point you will realize that it is still a coffee shop and not a co-working space. After 2-3 hours I always felt the need to leave and switch places. On one hand that gave me a nice little break and some fresh air as well as a new opportunity to check out a different place. You earn extra karma when going by bike.

Tip 4: Don't drink too much coffee

I LOVE COFFEE. But even though I enjoy drinking it, at a certain point I feel my heart start going faster and my finger tips start shaking—there is definitely such a thing as too much coffee. Usually coffee shops have a great selection of tea as well. Pro Tip: Choose a juice bar over a coffee shop and have a huge glass of orange juice. Also, when you order coffee always go for a small cup. It buys you more time while it also keeps the coffee warmer and your caffeine level low.

Tip 5: Respect the rules and be a nice guest

Giving a big tip at the start is a nice gesture but it's not like buying a seat in a co-working space. It guarantees you nothing. If a space is busy, regular guest are waiting, and you are in your third hour… consider switching places. If the password says 20 minutes per coffee, better make sure to have a coffee (drink) every once in a while. I also made good friends with the dog of a coffee shop owner during my coffee shop day; as the dog seemed to feel lonely and decided to take a nap on my lap.

That one day spent working solely from coffee shops was a great experiment, even though I do not do it every day. More like when I feel lonely at home I spend a afternoon in coffee shops. You might wonder if that style of working is super expensive and the answer is: well, it depends. For this experiment I took notes when I switched places, what I ordered, and what I paid.

I started at 08:40 and stayed for almost two hours—having two coffees for 2,80 each. Then I hit the fancy pants place without WIFI 💩 and moved at 11:40 to the super expensive juice bar. Had a half liter of orange juice for 6 Euro and lunch. After that I switched to the last place for the day—that sweet little café with a dog, where I had a big coffee and a cake for 7 Euro. When you compare this day that cost me about 17,80 Euro to a single day pass at a co-working space for 20 Euro I think it's quite ok. Not to say that I want to spend 20 Euro every day for working but as a proof that this works to see other humans.

Working from coffeeshops has lots of upsides for me over a co-working space, but that might be related to the quality of co-working spaces here. While working from coffeeshops costs more in the long run. I want to be surrounded by normal people, and not people talking fundraising bullshit all day long. Switching places gives great breaks and supercharges productivity and creativity. So it's a great alternation to my home office. Oh and you also get amazing tasting coffee the whole day!

If you want to know what coffee places I like check out my Foursquare lists for Hamburg and San Francisco.

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Ole Michaelis's profile picture

Ole Michaelis

Conference junkie, user groupie and boardgame geek also knows how to juggle. Oh, and software.

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