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The Compass  /  Office Culture  /  How To Get Work Done In A Coffee Shop

How To Get Work Done In A Coffee Shop

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How To Get Work Done In A Coffee Shop

You wince as a burr grinder roars to life for the umpteenth time since you sat down at this coffee shop. You brought your laptop with the intent to pound out a good hour of work. Still, this machine is just one of the coffee shop sounds that has conspired to derail your attempts to get work done.

As the machine loudly turns whole coffee beans down to an espresso grind, the coffee shop noise begets more noise. The guy at the table next to you starts to speak louder so that he can be heard on a conference call, a meeting he’s been actively taking part in for the better part of 30 minutes. Since he’s got his phone plugged into the outlet, he’s forced to position himself so that he’s basically yelling right at you.

Just then comes an order for some frozen frappé drink, the coffee equivalent of the frozen daiquiris that college girls order at Señor Frog’s on Spring Break, and the world’s most cacophonous concoction is now being prepared about six inches from your ear.

If you’ve had this kind of experience when attempting to work from a coffee shop, you’re probably wondering what particularly potent blend of crack we must be smoking when we suggest that working from a coffee shop can actually improve your productivity, but it can. Here’s how.


Get a new perspective

Get a new perspective

A change of scenery can get you thinking with renewed perspective. Changing perspectives helps us creatively solve problems and changing our physical perspectives can help. By giving us different, unexpected stimuli to respond to, we fire up different parts of our brains and open ourselves up to new ideas.


Join your tribe

Join your tribe

Studies have shown that just seeing others working nearby can improve your work since mental exertion is, in fact, contagious. Yes, you can see your co-workers working hard in the office, but the familiarity of seeing the same people doing the same thing can dull the effect.


Drown out dull ideas

Drown out dull ideas

Sounds can stimulate creativity. A 2012 ambient noise study found that moderate ambient noise enhances creativity. What is moderate? Around 70 decibels (about as loud as the average vacuum cleaner) is ideal. The study found that too quiet (about 50 dB, which roughly translates to the ambient hum of a quiet suburb), is great for focusing on a task like data entry, but not so good for getting the creative juices flowing. Once you break the 85 dB barrier (about as loud as the average blender) creativity can go south as concentration becomes harder.  


And then there’s the coffee

And then there’s the coffee

If your office brew can go toe to toe with good coffee shop coffee, congratulations, you win at work life. Taste may not matter if you use coffee as a drug, a mere means of ingesting caffeine. (If that sounds like you, we’ll point you toward Black Insomnia.)

If you’re looking for an actual pleasurable coffee experience, a great coffee shop is simply unbeatable. So, aside from all the research showing you’ll be more creative/productive if you go to a coffee shop, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that working from a coffee shop lets you do something essentially good: mix work and pleasure.

Still, getting work done in a coffee shop can be tricky. That’s why we’ve created these three keys to turning your coffee shop into your second office.

Be sure you’re not MIA in the office

Tell someone where you’ll be. Think of going to a coffee shop during the day like going into the wilderness. You wouldn’t go rock climbing in some remote location without telling someone (if you need convincing watch the James Franco movie 128 Hours). If you’ve got people reporting to you, keep Slack or Google Hangouts running in the background so you’re accessible in case of emergency. And, as the ultimate low-tech backup, leave a Post-It note on your desk so that anyone stopping by knows where you are.

Choose your location wisely


Finding a good coffee shop to work from isn’t always simple. You’ll need to answer questions like, do they have reliable WiFi? Is there going to be seating? Outlets to plug into? Good coffee? How easy is it to get there? Etc.

Luckily, there’s Workfrom.co. Workfrom’s goal is to make it easy for remote workers to find spaces to get work done. Scout out the best spots with the Local Guides in Workfrom’s #Untethered magazine.

Pick the right projects

The trick to working from a coffee shop is to focus on ideation, not execution. Capitalize on the creativity boost the coffee shop sounds can give you and tackle problems that require you to think of a new or innovative solution. The coffee shop’s a great place to write that strategy document or come up with a great line of marketing copy. It probably isn’t the place to put together the quarterly statistical analysis or hammer out the terms of a contract. Save the more detail-oriented execution work for your desk.

Further, the problem you’re solving should be something that you can solve solo. If you need to get the team in on the problem, you probably need a conference room, not a coffee shop.


Coffee shop sounds, minus the coffee shop

Coffee shop sounds, minus the coffee shop

Finally, if you can’t get to the coffee shop but you want to reap the benefits, you can bring the coffee shop to you. Check out Coffivity, the website that lets you play coffee shop sounds and even lets you choose what kind of coffee shop sounds you want. Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge, and University Undertones are all available for free on the site.
Whether you get out to the coffee shop or just play coffee shop sounds on your laptop, you’ll have unlocked another way to bring your sharpest thinking to every project. For more on staying sharp at the office, and dressing sharp too, be sure to subscribe to The Compass to get a free dose of style and culture every week.

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2 thoughts on “How To Get Work Done In A Coffee Shop”

  1. Great article, love the writing style

    1. Black Lapel says:

      Thanks, Sam, we’re glad we could help and hope you found it useful.

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