What’s the Correct Coffee Shop Etiquette for Remote Workers?

Love a latte or an espresso made from fresh coffee beans while you work? We’ve put together working in coffee shop etiquette that you need to keep in mind.

Handsome man in earphones holding cup of coffee and looking at laptop in a coffee shop - working in coffee shop etiquette
Coffee shop etiquette is essential if you want to work in a public space

An eclectic mix of people has tapped into their creativity from a coffee shop, from Pablo Picasso to Bob Dylan. These days, the coffee shop economy is booming, with more and more employees choosing to ‘work from anywhere.

As the gig sector and startups have grown, cafes have become workspace hubs. If you set up for the day in a local coffee shop or a chain like Starbucks, what coffee shop etiquette should you follow?

Read on to find out.

Rules to Keep in Mind

Do you like a barista-made cup of coffee while working? Or maybe you’re a freelancer needing a break from your homeworking routine – somewhere with decent free wifi so you’re still able to work. Coffee shops offer these things.

However, working from a coffee shop is sometimes taken advantage of – people nurse a cup of filter coffee for hours, hogging electrical outlets and bandwidth. Read on for the 101 on what to do and what not to do when working from a coffee shop.

1. Location, Location, Location

Not all cafes were created equally: Some don’t facilitate a good work environment. Take a dinky coffee shop with limited seating. You’d find it hard to justify occupying a seat for hours on end, right?

women, students, coffee shop
Avoid peak hours if you can

Instead, choose a location with lots of comfy seating and moderate noise levels. Avoid peak hours if you can, and don’t take a large table for yourself, especially if the cafe is busy. And for those working online, make sure the internet connection is reliable and strong.

If you live in New York, these are the best coffee shops for getting work done.

2. Travel Light

It may sound obvious, but don’t rock up with a full desktop computer monitor. Stick to the minimum: Laptop, charger, headphones, paper and pens, and your purse or wallet. Oh, and a cord to hook up to your mobile, in case the internet drops.

3. Stick to the House Rules

It’s important to adjust to your setting. If you can’t, maybe that particular coffee shop isn’t the one for you. They’re places of business and you should abide by their rules.

For instance, there may be specific seating for workers. Some places limit the amount of time you can spend there, avoiding hogging. Other cafes may have a minimum spend. Be respectful and follow the systems in place.

4. Reorder Often

Don’t have one cup of coffee and then sip of free tap water for the rest of the day. If you’re taking up space in a cafe for an extended period, using the electricity and internet, the least you can do is make it worth their while.

Order food, be it lunch, brunch, or a snack. A rough guide? Consider making a purchase every hour and a half.

Customer ordering food toward waitress
Consider making a purchase every hour and a half

There are exceptions. For example, some larger chains may have more relaxed policies in place.

5. Phone Calls: Take Them or Not?

Unless the call is going to be super quick, avoid answering your cell phone while working from a coffee shop. There are people meeting friends and relaxing – not everyone is working, and people don’t want to hear you talking shop.

Keep in mind that a coffee shop is not an office.

Think about asking whether you can call the person back, or head outside to a spot in view of your belongings and talk from there. Option three? Move on elsewhere.

6. Need a Bathroom Break?

If you need to use the toilet, you’ll likely be wary of leaving your expensive equipment at your spot while you nip to the restroom. You can either pack all your things up and take them with you or ask someone else – the person sitting next to you or a member of staff – to watch your things.

Is the second option fair? Not really. It’s a lot to ask of someone you don’t know. Maybe the best thing is to use that point in the day as a natural break: gather your things, move on to another coffee shop, or head home.

7. Don’t Overstay

Coffee shops and cafes run a business – the more customers the better. Look around you: if there are no free seats, consider whether it’s fair for you to stick around for hours on end. If you do decide to stay, be sure to buy several drinks and something to eat – and tip well.

Woman checking time on her wrist watch in a coffee shop
Four hours is a good amount of time you should follow when working from a coffee shop

As a rough guide, four hours is probably the maximum amount of time you should spend working from a coffee shop.

The Final Word on Working In Coffee Shop Etiquette

Like a cappuccino while you work and feel the need to get away from your home officeDon’t be afraid to head to your favorite coffee shop to work for a few hours. With remote workers increasing and not everyone able to afford co-working spaces, working from cafes is more and more popular.

However, there are etiquette rules to follow. It’s not fair on coffee shop owners if you overstay your welcome or hog power outlets.

Remember to use headphones, reorder cups of coffee and other menu items, and don’t take extended phone calls. It’s all about common sense.


  • Laura E

    Laura Evans is a sucker for the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and won't say no to a steaming mug of amber-hued Thai tea.