Working At A Coffee Shop – Zenbooks Weighs In

Zenbooks has partnered with the Ottawa Coffee Fest this year. As a fully remote company, our Zenbooks employees all work from a remote setting. Whether this is from their home office, a friends house or the more popular option, a trendy neighborhood coffee shop. As such, we thought it would be interesting to share our opinion on the often controversial dynamic between the remote worker and the coffee shop.

Have you found yourself wondering just why there are limits on Wifi? Or perhaps why the chairs leave you with a backache for the rest of the week? In some situations, these actions (unfortunately) have been put in place for a reason. It is no surprise that the relationship between the remote worker and coffee shop can be strained if not non-existent. A NY Post article went as far as declaring coffee shop owners in a “war on Wi-Fi squatters”. But is the relationship really that bad? We believe that with mutual respect between the coffee shop and the working individual this work setting relationship can not only benefit the worker but the shop as well!

As a remote worker who can work from anywhere with a wifi connection, we have choices. We have freedom. We can choose to work from home, work from the cottage, work from a coffee shop, or any other space that has a decent wifi connection. Local coffee shops are the heart of a vibrant, eclectic group of residents in a community. Coffee lovers come together to share stories, support one another, catch-up with old friends, make new friends or even just enjoy a perfect cup of Cortado coffee with a book. It’s no wonder we LOVE to work in a coffee shop! We spoke with Mike Shore of Joyful Coffee in Rockland, who agrees wholeheartedly in the importance of a healthy relationship between the remote worker and coffee shop. As a coffee shop owner himself, he adds,

“ I believe that having that first client comfortably installed “softens” the space for the next person to come in, essentially makes the place that much more welcoming, and makes the next client – who might otherwise have shied away from hanging around – that much more likely to sit-in, spend more time here, perhaps become hungry for a snack, perhaps invite a friend to join them, perhaps remember the whole experience more fondly and plan their next date here, grab a second coffee, take the time to review us online, etc.”

When seeing this side of the rock it makes you stop and think. Can business owners and remote workers actually help each other in the long run? We believe that yes, yes they can but ONLY when there is mutual respect between the two. Mike from Joyful chimes in that he as a business owner still struggles to understand “the unwritten etiquette of any public, cafe space where it is or is not understood that there is to be a constant flow of people and thou shalt not occupy the same space for more than x number of minutes”. So what exactly are these “rules” to remote coffee working? Now they will probably be different for every person but we thought we’d compile a few more commonly accepted “rules” Zenbooks employees enjoy following when working remotely in a coffee shop.

  1. Laptops and Tablets only. Don’t be that person who brings in a desktop computer to the coffee shop. Just don’t do it. Trust me, people have done it, you could google a few images if you want.
  2. No loud music or loud voice when talking. Keep it to the headphones/earphones. Even then don’t make it so loud that your neighbors can hear.
  3. Don’t sit at a table for 4. Tuck yourself into a corner to be out of everyone’s hair.
  4. After ordering your coffee leave a tip. A good $ Tip. The reality is that during your stay the coffee shop owner is the one who is financially “burdened”. In response to your extended stay show your gratitude through leaving a generous tip.
  5. Stick to the $5.00 per hour rule. Make sure that a combination of your tip and your purchases comes to about $5/hour. Coffee shops actually have really fresh fruits, cupcakes, muffins, biscotti.
  6. Don’t go to the big chain coffee house. (Second Cup, Starbucks, etc). If you’re going to pay for coffee, you should pay your respects to your local economy. Ottawa and the surrounding areas have a large array of coffee shops, broaden your horizons a little. But, if you do need to engage in distracting behavior ie. video or phone calls the larger chain shops may be your best bet as their atmosphere tends to busier. Your voice will be less disruptive in a bustling environment.
  7. Max 4 hours. This doesn’t need much explanation. At the end of the day, it is a coffee shop and not a co-working space.
  8. Clean up after yourself. You want to be the model customer! You want coffee shop owners to say, “This person was here for a while, but that’s ok!”.
  9. No video chats or Skype calls. If you have a video chat scheduled that day. Either cancel it or find another space. Don’t be that person who’s bugging everyone.

At the end of the day, it comes down to respect. Coffee shop owners rely heavily on high percent margin products with low dollar margin, multiplied with high volume to cover their overhead costs. Being a respectful remote worker can lead to a mutually beneficial relationship between the worker and coffee shop, benefiting both parties in the long run.  Where are your favorite local spots to work remotely? We’d love to know. Leave us a comment below!

Eric Saumure, CPA, CA, Principal

Eric Saumure, CPA, CA, Principal

Eric is a recognized Chartered Accountant (CA) and Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) in the province of Ontario.
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