The Coffee shop Office

by Matt Rowan

Social Setting or Office? Laptop-Free Zone

It’s pretty common to see people working on a laptop in a coffee shop in most towns and cities. Ever since cafés introduced free WiFi, laptop users have arrived in droves to make use of ‘free’ workspaces. Sitting there tapping away on the computer deep and thought with the headphones in. But why? Surely they have somewhere else they can work from? Why here? More workers than ever are working remotely, and many coffee shops accommodate this work-from-wherever lifestyle, with fast and free Wi-Fi and large, communal tables complete with outlets, and coffee in the same room. Better than some offices in many cases! I work partly from home in my home office, but I also work a few days a week from a shared co-working space. The co-working space changes my frame of mind. The change of space environment and surrounding, really cam focus me, and the same is true with the coffee shop. This change of atmosphere is a boost to start my day some days, others it is to break the norm or punctuate a change in the work I am doing. 


What makes a good coffee shop to work from?

I am drawn to coffee shops that are individual unique coffee roasters, and small boutique places, these beautiful places, with their trendy lighting, great music, unique setups and chilled vibe are lovely to visit. However, working from one of these does not work for me. The small intimate space, the close atmosphere doesn’t work well from my creativity. Instead, I am mostly looking for a corner to work where I feel uninterrupted and happy to sit for two hours maximum. This linked with a good Wi-Fi connection, and a pair of headphones I can focus, not feel distracted by my surroundings too much, and feel happy sitting with a couple of coffees and working without distraction. There is some evidence that working in a cafe, rather than at home on your own, can be a good idea. According to New Scientist –, “mental effort is contagious” – if you plonk yourself down next to someone who is toiling away, it will inspire you to work harder”. Perhaps I am unique in this thought as I see others working where ever they can, but for me, it depends on what sort of work I am doing at that point. Whether it is creative ideas I’m looking to develop, or whether it is a matter of knuckling down and getting on with the task and whether that is a repetitive job or problem-solving. Alongside this, I feel in a small establishment, I am using precious space and would prefer to use these in a recreational setting not to get some work done. They are intimate, full of character and to me feel more like a place for chatting not working. In fact, there is scientific evidence that music at a certain level, background chatter, clatter can also boost our cognitive thinking. Perhaps this ambient noise stops wandering thoughts, or drives us forward. I can understand this much like meditation, perhaps we are distracting the monkey mind with an activity or a task whilst making or doing. 



Laptop Table Hoggers – This isnt your Free Hotdesking Space

Are you a nusience? Do people mind you using the space? For the chains like Starbucks and Costa or Cafe Nero, here in the UK, it’s commonplace and less of an issue. But for independent cafés, freeloading laptop users can have a serious and damaging effect on trade and costs.

Living in Brighton there are many independent coffee shops and there is a difficult line knowing where is suitable to work from and where is more of a social hang out rather than a working space.
I don’t want to be that person who is hogging space or cluttering up a coffee shop when it could be used by people socialising. I would rather work in a place where I feel comfortable and others feel comfortable for me to work in a corner quietly. And I think this is quite easy to judge at times, normally by assessing who are the other patrons of the coffee shop are. If the tables have single people working, normally with headphones and a laptop, I feel happy to join in.
But when in doubt, I usually ask. This shows some courtesy to the people managing the space and opens up a dialogue where ordering a coffee every hour or so in return for using their Wi-Fi seems fair.

As described in this article in the Mirror we are using valuable resources – electricity, wifi, water and space that is not free. 

Coffee Shop Working Etiquette

As a general rule, most say you should order a drink every 2 hours max.

  • Keep it quiet – No loud phone call meetings
  • Respect the Free Wifi usage – No downloading a new operating system! it isnt free, it is part of your order, but should be respected.
  • Respect the Barista and space, a corner that looks out of the way, and a table that is suitable for you and the laptop. Dont expect to have access to a plug for electricity. Even if one is available, it may not be for patrons usage.
  • Respect others – they may be there to meet friends, and to socialise, they have more of a right to use the space than you on your laptop. Dont expect others to be quiet to accomodate you.
  • Expect a common courtesy request e.g – “would you like to order another drink?” as a prompt it is usually meant to be.



Replicate the environment, does it work?

Background noise can really be the answer for alot of people looking for focus. Does it work for you? 


 James Joyce is said to have written parts of his novel “Ulysses” in a coffee shop in Trieste, Italy. He and many other great 19th/20th century writers spent considerable time in literary cafés and bars. Did they just want to escape their shabby rooms to be warm and comfortable, or was it because the chatter and laughter was helpful for their creativity and focus? Coffitivity is built on the belief that the latter can work. 


This add-on is a simple coffee background noise and works well to keep you feeling like you’re in a coffee shop without having to be from your chair order or order the next coffee break your concentration. According to a peer-reviewed study out of the University of Chicago, “A moderate level of ambient noise is conducive to creative cognition.” In a nutshell, this means being a tiny bit distracted helps you be more creative. This is why those AHA moments happen when we’re brushing our teeth, taking a shower, or mowing the lawn! If we’re not focused too much at a task at hand, we come up with awesome stuff. In the coffee shop, the chatter and clatter actually distracts us a tiny bit and allows our creative juices to start flowing. The Coffitivity app which replicates the background noise of a coffee shop has become popular with some users. There is something about the noise surrounding you whilst you are in your focus moment that helps to get you in the zone. Interestingly it helps to focus me to a task at hand rather than distracting. Mixing this with coffee, a stimulant which could be full of sugar or black but the combination of these two in a controlled situation without too much noise can really spark or boost a moment of focus. Ideal for a short burst, it might just work for you. A good coffee long and black can last me for half an hour and taking at the right time when I’m already primed and ready to work mixed with one of my soundtracks can really get me into the creative mode. Try some of these playlists on Youtube. Do they work for you? Set a task and plug in for some focus and see what works for you.


I bought this as part of a deal some Years ago go and find that It’s good to have in the background for when I can feel myself getting a bit of task. The Braion FM website suggests that it taps into your brain reason and can see focused work improvements. Who knows if this is true, because everybody is different but worth trying to see if it works for you!




Noisli claims to Improve focus and boost your productivity by Mixing different sounds and create your perfect environment. Does it work for you? Noisli is a fantastic background noise and color generator for working and relaxing. Online soothing ambient sounds like White noise, Rain and Coffee Shop. 

Youtube Soundtrack links

Here are a few of my favourite go to ‘Background Music’ sounds. Remember: These arent supposed to be inspiring or exciting, sometimes just the opposite almost like white noise – these are here to drown out the silence and focus at the task at hand.


Some Other Interesting Links

Some useful links to find out more. Let us know what works for you, and start to build a bigger resource for others to tap in to.

Further reading about 18 wonderful ways music affects the brain can also be read about here:

Let’s Talk

Craft Graphic
Western Rd
Lewes BN7 1RP 

Font Licenses Explained

Desktop License

The licensed font can appear in unlimited commercial and personal projects including, but not limited to, physical end products, social media, broadcast, packaging, and paid ads.

Can be used for

  • Web app and website usage Only in rasterized form
  • Games Only in rasterized form
  • Design or Print-on-Demand applications Only the Licensee may use the font to create a completed end product

Cannot be used for

  • Embedding fonts files Must always be used in rasterized form

Webfont License

The licensed font can appear in multiple websites owned or controlled by the Licensee. Pageview limit agreed upon at checkout.

Can be used for

  • Web app and website usage Only displayed in the Licensee’s website(s), within the agreed upon pageview limit.
  • Embedding fonts Only within the Licensee’s website(s) and agreed upon pageview limit

Cannot be used for

  • Games
  • Design or Print-on-Demand applications
  • Desktop use

App License

The licensed font can appear in one application.

Can be used for

  • Games Font can be embedded, but not extractable
  • Embedding Fonts Font can be embedded in desktop apps, games, and mobile apps but cannot be extractable.

Cannot be used for

  • Web app and website usage
  • Design or Print-on-Demand applications

E-pub License

The licensed font can appear in one title.

Can be used for

  • Embedding Fonts Font can be embedded in epubs, but cannot be extractable

Cannot be used for

  • Web app and website usage
  • Games
  • Design or Print-on-Demand applications