There are those who can work from home and those who just can’t. Personally, I fall in the latter category – my couch and television become insurmountable distractions. There’s also another reason I love going to cafes across town – trying all the types of coffee out there, and luckily the coffee scene in Delhi has grown by leaps and bounds.
I have also noticed that sometimes, the push you need to get some real work done is breaking the routine. Getting out of the house and working from an unfamiliar place can often unclog those jammed-up neurons and provide a jolt of motivation to finally finish that project or complete that long-pending article.
Having been a freelance writer since August 2018, when I last worked at a full-time job, I have had the freedom to pick my location and hours. With the pandemic, many organisations offer flexible locations to their employees and will continue to do so, so if you foresee working out of the house in a place that isn’t an office, or just want a change of scene from time to time, this list is for you.
1. Pick the right location (and the right seat)
Not all cafes provide a great working environment. Therefore, picking the right cafe is paramount. If it is too small then it's harder to justify occupying a seat for several hours. If the cafe has close to zero people working on laptops, then it is a sign that the cafe may not be very receptive to remote workers. Another must is to find a cafe that offers not only coffee but a good selection of food. A good tip here is to pick a cafe that has several branches and is full of others working at all hours. In Delhi, there is Blue Tokai and Third Wave Coffee Roasters. At almost all of their branches, you can find dozens of people’s furiously typing away on their laptops.
The cafe should also have an adequate number of power outlets (most laptops won't see you through a full day of work) and free Wi-Fi. It may be easier to connect your laptop to your mobile hotspot (as it doesn’t cost anything extra here in India), but having access to a consistent Wi-Fi network is important.
One last tip, but something that is most important, is to find the right seat. You don’t want to be sandwiched between two tables full of people having conversations. Find the right-sized table for your party of one (if it is just yourself) in a section that isn’t overly crowded at all times of the day.
2. Pack a bag of essentials
It may sound obvious but sometimes it really isn’t. You may be used to your office desk having everything that you need. When you decide to head out to a cafe, you’ve got to bring your whole desk with you. Some of these may overlap with the work-from-home essentials, but there are subtle differences; for instance, a laptop stand for portability versus the table/desk at home.
a) Laptop/tablet: Depending on your workload, a laptop/tablet should be on top of the list. Here are just two among the many options out there:
The HP Spectre x360
The Apple iPad
b) Noise-cancelling headphones: This one is an absolute must. Cafes are almost never silent (unless you go at a time when it is mostly empty). You also never know who is going to be sitting next to you. To avoid having to shift often because of the decibel levels, invest in noise-cancelling headphones, whether they are wired or truly wireless earbuds that are available in all budgets.
Jabra Elite 85t
Nothing Ear (1)
c) A notebook and pen: Don’t forget the old-school tools. If you ever need to note down something, then fret not. You should always have a notebook and pen as your companion for these situations.
d) Power bank: In the situation where your phone and laptop are both low on battery (and you’re not next to an outlet at the cafe), a power bank can come in handy. There are many compact options that can easily slip into a bag/backpack. Get one with a minimum capacity of 10000mAh. You don’t want to be taking that call with your boss/client with less than 5% battery.
e) Docking station: Yes, that new shiny iPad you just bought, or that new Windows laptop you just snagged, is lacking somehing major: ports. Depending on your work profile, you’ll probably be needing at least one port that doesn’t come with your device. Hence, to alleviate that problem, a docking station is a must. A few options:
Targus 100 Watts USB-C 4K HDMI/VGA Docking Station
Portronics Mport 9C Type-C Multiport
f) Portable laptop stand: A laptop stand is necessary to avoid any neck strain. You don’t need anything large, or with a cup holder, but something simple, like this one – expensive but one of the best on the market. It folds into a carrying sleeve for easy portability and fits all laptops up to 16”.
The Roost V3 Laptop Stand
g) Multi-device keyboard: Space is limited at every cafe and you want to maximise your productivity. A multi-device keyboard can not only improve your typing experience and comfort, but also help boost productivity. With the simple click of a button, you can switch from typing on your laptop to typing on your smartphone.
The Logitech K480 Wireless Multi-Device Keyboard
3. Uphold the rules of cafes
Adjust yourself to your surroundings. If a cafe has a certain set of rules, then stick to it. This is something that is unnecessarily flouted many times by patrons. If the cafe has specific seating areas for those with laptops (like Perch in Khan Market, Delhi), then stick to that area. If you’re going to be at the cafe for over four hours, then order at least twice. Don’t just be a table hog.
Don’t make a barista come and ask you to vacate your seat for any reason. Do your job as a customer and keep the cafe going.
If you plan to be on long calls, or listen to music for the duration of your time there, then please wear headphones at all times. And if the call is longer than a couple of minutes, step out and take the call.
4. Be organised
You don’t have unlimited time at a cafe. Before you reach the cafe, have a set agenda of what you need to accomplish so that you’re prepared from the getgo. Set time limits for how much time you’re going to be spending at the cafe. Having clear and concise plans can help boost productivity.
5. Take frequent breaks
You may be working at breakneck speed for most part of your visit to the cafe. Don’t forget to break it up with frequent breaks. Either have a quick walkaround to stretch your legs or talk to a neighbour at the table next to you. It’s a good way to network and to break the monotonous workday lying ahead of you.
6. Don’t leave your belongings unattended
I don’t know how many times this has to be told, but somehow, people still don’t seem to listen. Leaving your stuff unattended is a big no-no. You may be stepping out for a call or a cigarette or taking a long bathroom break. No matter what the reason, don’t leave your stuff unattended, lest it be stolen in the time you’ve stepped away.
In a situation where you must step away, then there are two options with you. First, ask your neighbor (the one you’ve probably never seen before in your life), to look after your stuff. Second, take your stuff with you when you step away from the table. If you go with the former, then you’re putting trust in a stranger and asking a lot of them. You never know, you may end up being friends with them after all. If you choose the latter, then take this opportunity to move to a different cafe, so as not to hog a table.
Working remotely from a coffee shop can boost your productivity/give you a totally new working experience. With the tips and tricks above, you should be set for a great day outside your humble abode. Reap all the benefits of working from a cafe and keep sipping on some fantastic coffee that your city has to offer. For me, it’s an Americano, Flat White or an Iced Vietnamese Coffee.