You order a flat white adorned with latte art, and then find a quiet spot in the charming cafe. Opening up your MacBook, you inhale the aroma of coffee, a smile of contentment forming at the corners of your lips, as you prepare for a productive morning, silently giving thanks that there’s not a gray cubicle wall in sight.
Well, that’s the dream of every freelancer or remote worker ever.
In reality, the cafe you’re working at is likely to sound like a fish market once the lunchtime crowd strikes. Your coffee gets cold fast thanks to freezing blasts of air conditioning, and you finding yourself constantly deflecting the glares of the waitstaff as they try to pressure you to leave so other customers can take your place. But here’s the real kicker: the wifi is down.
Most of the time, working remotely in a cafe isn’t as idyllic an experience as people think. But if that’s your workplace of choice, here are five tips for ensuring a productive session.
Test out the wifi before you sit down and buy a drink, not after
Just because the cafe sticks a “free wifi” sticker on the door doesn’t always mean they’ve got a good connection. It’s not uncommon to buy your drink, choose a good seat and then try to connect to the wifi, only to realise it’s maddeningly slow or keeps getting disconnected.
To be safe, always sit down, open your laptop and test the connection before you commit to buying a drink. Cafe staff see remote workers on their premises every day and should understand that you need wifi to work. Don’t feel pressured to buy anything until you’re sure the wifi is working decently.
Singaporeans are definitely not the quietest diners. When the lunchtime or after-work crowd starts swarming in, prepare to have your thoughts drowned out by aggressive chatter, especially if you’re seated indoors.
Headphones are an absolute must if you’re working on your laptop. As an added bonus, you no longer have to be at the mercy of the cafe’s musical tastes.
Ration your spending
How many drinks to buy is often a question that plagues remote workers. You cannot sit there with an empty glass for 6 hours. Yet buying 6 coffees in 6 hours will make you look like a cocaine addict by the end of your work session.
That’s why it’s important to ration your spending wisely and not finish your beverage too fast. Buying a drink once every 2 hours is acceptable if it’s a moderately busy cafe. If business isn’t too brisk, you can get away with seat-warming for much longer.
If you also plan to have lunch or dinner there, instead of buying food and coffee at the same time, buy a drink first, work, then have lunch with a glass of water. This will help you stretch out your spending to enable you to occupy the longest time possible at the cafe.
Take advantage of the free water
Many cafes will give you a glass of water or let you refill your glass at self-service stations. Take full advantage of this. Not only does it help you to stretch your coffee out for a longer duration, it also ensures you aren’t pumping your body with nothing but caffeine and sugar.
Choose a strategic seat
How long you can stay at the cafe without feeling uncomfortable depends to a large extent on the seat you choose. If you’re alone, don’t be a smart aleck and try to take up a table that seats four or your chances of being chased out are higher.
In a cafe that’s likely to get crowded, take up as little space as possible and your chances of being allowed to remain unmolested are higher. If there’s a communal table or window/bar seat, that’s a good bet. Otherwise, choose a two-seater in a quiet corner.
Avoid seats that see a high amount of human traffic. That includes seats near the entrance, counter or toilets. You are, after all, there to work, not people watch.
Do you ever work in cafes? Tell us why or why not in the comments!