27 Mar 2022

Café rules for digital nomads

Since the pandemic we’ve all got used to working away from the office. For some of us this means setting up a home office, and we may well have made the transition to hybrid working. But many of us will not find home the ideal workplace environment for a number of reasons including lack of a dedicated workspace, constant interruptions, dodgy WiFi, or a sense of isolation. So we have picked up our laptops and walked – to the nearest obliging café. Ideally, this is a mutually beneficial arrangement for the customer (a congenial place to work) and the café (a captive customer who will buy their wares), but you will need to follow some basic rules to ensure that you are not abusing the café’s hospitality.

•If you’re planning to work in a café, choose with care. You will need to find somewhere that is quiet and spacious, where there is plenty of room and table space is not at a premium. If other people are already working on their laptops, this is a good sign as it indicates that itinerant workers are tolerated. If not, ask the manager politely if it’s alright to work and use the café’s power outlets and WiFi. If there is any hesitation, don’t argue, just relocate.

•Cafés need turnover to make a profit, so you must not turn into a table-hogger, who nurses a single cup of coffee while other customers come and go. If you’re settling in for the long haul, order food and drink at regular intervals.

•If you’re working in a café you need to be observant and sensitive to what is happening around you. Don’t become so absorbed in your laptop that you neglect to notice queues building up at the counter and people waiting for tables. If that happens, you should pack up and leave – a crowded café is not a suitable working environment.

•Accept that the primary purpose of a café is to host customers who are meeting friends for a cup of coffee and a chat. You must never look askance at your near neighbours because their animated conversation or crying baby is playing havoc with your concentration. That is your problem, not theirs.

•If your work involves anything that emits sound (looking at videos for example) you must always wear headphones or ear buds. It is never acceptable to inflict your sound effects on other people, especially as the general background noise will probably force you to turn up the volume.

•When it comes to using your phone for making work-related calls, you will need to look around you and judge what is appropriate. If you are in a noisy café, with lots of customers chatting, then making a phone call is not going to be particularly disturbing to your neighbours, though bear in mind that the person at the other end may well be frustrated by the background racket. If, on the other hand, you are in a café that is frequented by dedicated laptop-users, who work in a library-like hush, then it would be inappropriate to make calls within their earshot.

•You should avoid video calls or conferences when you are working in a café, as you will look unprofessional – you don’t want colleagues or clients to get the impression that you are casual about your work commitments. If circumstances arise where you have no choice and have to join a video call, explain where you are and apologise for your backdrop. When you are not speaking always remember to mute the sound, otherwise you will deafen your colleagues with clattering coffee cups and chattering customers.

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