Coffee shop worker drawingI don’t have a normal work schedule. My “typical” day consists of working from a combination of my car, coffee shops, co-working spaces, my home and client offices.

Arik Hanson (@arikhanson) is the founder of ACH Communications, a digital communications consultancy based in Minneapolis.

Since I spend a decent amount of time in coffee shops, I’ve noticed that more and more corporate and agency-type people are spending time there lately too – and working, not just socialising.

As the workplace continues to “shift”, we’ll most likely see more of this in the years ahead. In fact, some marketing agencies (look at the Fast Horse model here in Minneapolis) are already there.

So, since more people are using coffee shops as workplaces, and I spend a bit of time there myself, I thought I’d share a few tips for what’s worked for me in the past and how you can make sure you’re as productive as possible when you’re “out of the office.”

1. Find the power outlets

You know the guy who walks into a coffee shop and immediately starts roaming the room, scanning the floor boards? Yeah, that’s me. Don’t be that guy. But you need to be sure the coffee house you’re working in has ample outlets.

So, make sure to note which coffee shops have more than one outlet. After all, no outlet means no power cord. And no power cord means dead laptop. Don’t get caught with a dead laptop. It’s a quick productivity killer.

2. Make friends with the baristas

If you plan on spending a fair amount of time at one particular coffee house, start talking with the baristas there. You can only benefit from befriending these folk.

They can and will:

  1. Offer you special deals from time to time
  2. Give you free coffee, if you’re remotely nice
  3. Help you with other ad-hoc questions and issues as they pop up

For advanced coffee shop workers: Reach out to and make friends with the manager. Make sure he or she knows you on a first-name basis.

3. Invest in a killer headset

I used to think this was an age-specific tip. But recently, I’ve noticed more old guys wearing headphones in coffee shops – which is good, because I turn 40 in August and I don’t want to be the only 40-year-old wearing Klipsch headphones in my coffee shop. Good ‘phones tune out all the ambient noise around you. And there’s a lot of ambient noise in a coffee shop. You need good ‘phones. Once you have those, make Pandora your new BFF. (Ed. note: Or Spotify!)

4. Never leave your stuff unattended

Seems like an obvious tip, but I’ve seen some people leave their laptops unattended for 5-10 minutes at a time. Sure, you’d probably be fine. But why risk it with employee or client data just a few keystrokes away? My rule: Take your bag with you everywhere. To the bathroom. To the car. To the other side of the store, in some cases. I take zero risks here. And I’m sure my clients like it that way.

5. Know where the bathrooms are located

If you’re going to spend an hour or two in a coffee house, chances are you’ll use the restroom. Make sure you know where they’re located. And, in some cases, they can be tough to find, so this isn’t as obvious as it might sound.

6. Don’t rely on the free wi-fi

Even though many coffee shops offer free wi-fi, I’ve learned (the hard way) not to count on it – for many reasons: They forget to “turn it on.” It goes in and out. Or, in some cases, some shops just don’t offer it (for free, at least). Not to mention, it’s not always safe. So, always go in having a “plan B” – just in case. My-Fi devices are a good idea – but, they’re not cheap – and unnecessary for most folks who only work remotely a day or two a week. I’d recommend using your phone as a hot spot, if you can.

7. Don’t take conference calls

…and I’ve tried. But taking conference calls in a coffee shop just isn’t a good idea. Number one, it’s fairly rude to those around you. It’s also rude to those on the phone, as coffee shops are very loud and I know that comes through on the other end of the line. You can try a Bluetooth device or headset, but it’s still going to be loud; you may have a tough time hearing folks on the line, and, worse yet, they’ll have a tough time hearing you. So, save your calls for the office (or, the car).

What about you? Do you work out of coffee shops from time to time? Any good insider tips to share?

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