Chances are that if you’re a student or office worker, you’ve at some point sought out a cozy local cafe and enjoyed the ambiance and free WiFi while working away. And chances are, having done so, you’ve pissed off a small business owner in the process.
There are going to be two types of people reading this. The first are the blissfully ignorant, who camp out and have never noticed the pointed glare of the barista. The second are folks who are so stressed about inconveniencing the staff, that they break out in a cold sweat the second they start their laptop.
No need to fret, because regardless of which archetype you fall into, I’ve run the numbers and provided below the definitive guide to ‘coffice’ etiquette. You’re welcome.
The work day is just beginning, but the good news is that this is going to be the least socially awkward part of it. Just make sure that you’ve fully charged your devices, because leeching electricity is just plain distasteful.
However, you’re going to have to make an informed decision about which cafe you choose, especially if you haven’t yet established a rapport with any of the local businesses. My advice is to find a spot with a large and mostly empty dining area. If WiFi access is a must, scope out the exterior for one of those little stickers – if they ain’t advertising it, there’s probably a reason.
Once you’re inside, make sure you’re at a small table and not a six-person dining arrangement. That’s basic stuff. Once you’ve set up, go and order your first drink – as long as it’s not too embarrassing – and when you do so, get your workspace a green light from the server. Common courtesy.
Your first purchase buys you some time. After all, there’ll be plenty of folks coming in for catch-ups with friends who do the same thing, and what you’re doing is no different, really – even if the Skype conversations are a tad less joy-filled. As the hour wears on, you should really order a second drink, and/or a snack of some kind. Banana bread or a scone would do the trick.
It’s worth mentioning at this point, too, that you need to keep your area tidy. Don’t give the local cafe staff the extra challenge of sweeping up a square metre of crumbs or dirty tissues. And whatever you do, you’ve gotta respect the fact you’re in a public place and not your own home – no shoes, no shirt, no service.
Now, this is where things get a little tricky. If you’re determined to stay on, you’re going to have to splash the cash on a full meal – and don’t be stingy, especially if you’re chewing through a serious quantity of megabytes. Once you’ve polished off your (hopefully) delicious lunch, do a quick head count. Are there enough free tables to accommodate peak period customers? If not, it’s time to move on.
If you’ve somehow, against all odds, found the quietest cafe in the country then you can confidently go ahead and breaking that unspoken three-hour rule. You’ve bought yourself the time, literally and metaphorically. Go the extra mile for your kind and generous hosts by going for a walk midway through hour four – it’s good for you and for anyone who comes in wanting to nab that perfect cozy spot. You can always come back if it remains quiet and the place stays open late. If you do, you should probably switch over to hotspotting your mobile data, even if it’s only to satisfy your own conscience.
Now, this is the danger zone, especially if you haven’t moved all day. It’s a miracle that your phone hasn’t died as it is, and now definitely isn’t the right time to whip out the extension cord. But we’ve all had the crazy days of cramming for an exam or being looped into meeting after meeting. In order to avoid pushing the limits of public decency, order another drink and afternoon tea. Don’t worry, it’s a perfectly safe amount of coffee. Tip generously on your way out, and a 5-star Google review is an absolute must.
There you have it. You’ve successful navigated the social protocol of being a coffice worker. But at what cost?