Productivity / Professional development

The 7 golden rules of working from a cafe

Researchers at The Norwegian University of Science & Technology declared cafes to be the favoured spot of soloists and their ilk to while away their working hours. Sounds great in theory. But what are the traps to avoid when working from a cafe?


working from a cafe

It sounds perfect, don’t you think?

Endless cups of hot coffee to fuel your creative powers. Table service to cater for every, greedy whim. And the ambient noise of community life happening around you.

Yes in theory, working from a cafe should be delightful.

But as with most things, reality often bites. The coffee can be crap (priorities!), the wait staff  ignores you because you’re lingering, you get the squashed seat at the back in the blow of the air con on a freezing day or the stuffy corner on a hot one. And instead of ambient, a rowdy table of 10 seem determined to ruin your working flow.

"Once a week or occasional visits seem to be the most successful way to ‘use’ cafes when you’re soloist."

Avoid those things at all costs by following these 7 golden rules:

1. Timing

Once a week or occasional visits seem to be the most successful way to ‘use’ cafes when you’re soloist. Flying Solo forum member @pmullen says he always looks forward to his weekly Wednesday cafe session: “After being cooped up at home all week, it’s nice to be in a lively environment. I find I can still put my head down and get the work done when I need to.”

2. Choose a window seat

The Norwegian researchers said window seats bring the most satisfying working experience because table facing seats are designed to ‘encourage conversation’. They also have the added bonus of allowing you to stare outside and people watch (in between bouts of productivity,  of course).

3. Be realistic about how much and what type of work you’re going to get done

In the same way you’re considering ‘when’ you’ll use the cafe, it’s important also to consider the best kind of work to take with you. Personally, I need lots of quiet when I’m planning a project, but find emails or longer pieces of writing flow well when there’s background noise. But not everyone feels like that. As FS member Johny points out in this forum post: “Those that say they work from a smartphone in a café makes me understand why people don’t read anything anymore. How can you conduct business on a screen of a few inches and get it all?”.

4. Arrive hungry

Why? Well, you can order something and eat it while working and you don’t waste time either making it or washing up afterwards. Plus, I don’t know about you but there’s bound to be more variety on a menu than currently residing in your fridge. The extra order will also soften the blow of taking up a seat for a longer-than-usual, period of time.

5. Dress in layers

The temperature can change a lot in a cafe which can be quite distracting, says forum member, @letsgetdowntobusiness. And we’re here to work, remember!

6. Take a problem to solve

Now, this seems counterintuitive to point number one, but according to the Norwegian university researchers the cafe offers a change of scene that can be fabulous for creativity and problem solving.

7. Be courteous to all

While the cafe is a terrific escape for the home office worker, it is not, in fact, your office. Be mindful of other people and smile at the wait staff, they’ll appreciate it and your warmth may even win you an extra hour at the table.

What’s your best and worst thing about working from a cafe?

Lucy Kippist

is an experienced Australian editor with experience in writing, podcasting radio and television, with previous senior editorial roles at News Corp news.com.au, Kidspot and Kinderling Kids Radio. In her current role as editor of Flying Solo, Australia's #1 website for solo business owners she is pursuing her passion for women in the small business space. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


126,834 people use Flying Solo to help them create a business with life. Do you?

Connect with Flying Solo

Explore the benefits of membership